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Author Topic:   Is there anything up with the "Altenberg 16"?
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Message 1 of 2 (468873)
06-02-2008 1:19 AM

It's not Yasgur's Farm, but what happens at the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Altenberg, Austria this July promises to be far more transforming for the world than Woodstock. What it amounts to is a gathering of 16 biologists and philosophers of rock star stature – let's call them "the Altenberg 16" – who recognize that the theory of evolution which most practicing biologists accept and which is taught in classrooms today, is inadequate in explaining our existence. It's pre the discovery of DNA, lacks a theory for body form and does not accomodate "other" new phenomena. So the theory Charles Darwin gave us, which was dusted off and repackaged 70 years ago, seems about to be reborn as the "Extended Evolutionary Synthesis".

Papers are in. MIT will publish the findings in 2009 – the 150th anniversary of Darwin's publication of the Origin of Species. And despite the fact that organizers are downplaying the Altenberg meeting as a discussion about whether there should be a new theory, it already appears a done deal. Some kind of shift away from the population genetic-centered view of evolution is afoot.


Seems like there is some serious interest in either reexamining the Modern Synthesis or moving from it altogether.

Edit to add:

In "Organism and Environment" in Scientia, and in more popular form in the last chapter of Biology as Ideology, Lewontin argued that while traditional Darwinism has portrayed the organism as passive recipient of environmental influences, a correct understanding should emphasize the organism as an active constructer of its own environment. Niches are not pre-formed, empty receptacles into which organisms are inserted, but are defined and created by organisms. The organism-environment relationship is reciprocal and dialectical. M.W. Feldman, K.N. Laland, and F.J. Odling-Smee among others have developed Lewontin's conception in more detailed models.

Lewontin has long been a critic of traditional neo-Darwinian approaches to adaptation. In his article "Adaptation" in the Italian Encyclopedia Einaudi, and in a toned-down version in Scientific American, he emphasized the need to give an engineering characterization of adaptation separate from measurement of number of offspring, rather than simply assuming organs or organisms are at adaptive optima.[8] Lewontin has claimed that his more general, technical criticism of adaptationism grew out of his recognition that the fallacies of sociobiology reflect fundamentally flawed assumptions of adaptiveness of all traits in much of the modern evolutionary synthesis.


Richard Lewontin is mentioned in the article. From reading the wiki-link, he makes an interesting point I have often considered in discussions here, particularly on the lack of new phyla emerging, which is the idea that niches are not somehow a limited set but rather a dynamic creation, assuming common descent of course (which I do not but for sake of discussion).

Please note this last addition is not meant to be the whole topic, but critiques of adaptionism are fairly central to it.

Edited by randman, : No reason given.

Edited by randman, : No reason given.

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Message 2 of 2 (468907)
06-02-2008 10:17 AM

Thread copied to the Is there anything up with the "Altenberg 16"? thread in the Biological Evolution forum, this copy of the thread has been closed.

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