The uncertain foundation of neo-Darwinism: metaphysical and epistemological pluralism in the evolutionary synthesis

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40 (2):119-132 (2009)
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Abstract

The Evolutionary Synthesis is often seen as a unification process in evolutionary biology, one which provided this research area with a solid common theoretical foundation. As such, neo-Darwinism is believed to constitute from this time onward a single, coherent, and unified movement offering research guidelines for investigations. While this may be true if evolutionary biology is solely understood as centred around evolutionary mechanisms, an entirely different picture emerges once other aspects of the founding neo-Darwinists’ views are taken into consideration, aspects potentially relevant to the elaboration of an evolutionary worldview: the tree of life, the ontological distinctions of the main cosmic entities , the inherent properties of self-organizing matter, evolutionary ethics, and so on. Profound tensions and inconsistencies are immediately revealed in the neo-Darwinian movement once this broader perspective is adopted. This pluralism is such that it is possible to identify at least three distinct and quasi-incommensurable epistemological/metaphysical frameworks as providing a proper foundation for neo-Darwinism. The analysis of the views of Theodosius Dobzhansky, Bernhard Rensch, and Ernst Mayr will illustrate this untenable pluralism, one which requires us to conceive of the neo-Darwinian research agenda as being conducted in more than one research programme or research tradition at the same time

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Richard Delisle
University of Lethbridge

Citations of this work

What was really synthesized during the evolutionary synthesis? A historiographic proposal.Richard G. Delisle - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (1):50-59.
What was really synthesized during the evolutionary synthesis? A historiographic proposal.Richard G. Delisle - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (1):50-59.
Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of theology?Stephen Dilley - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):774-786.
Eclipsing the Eclipse?: A Neo-Darwinian Historiography Revisited.Max Meulendijks - 2021 - Journal of the History of Biology 54 (3):403-443.

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References found in this work

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