We examine how insights made in socio-anthropological and evolutionary schools of thought necessitate us to reevaluate the classic philosophical distinction between epistemology and ontology. We adopt an applied evolutionary epistemological stance and demonstrate that both epistemology and ontology evolve. Epistemology is broadened to include all knowledge and information that all life forms evolve, and ontology encompasses all biologically informed realities that life builds. Through processes such as symbiosis and niche construction, organisms acquire and extend information and knowledge into their offspring, (...) onto unrelated organisms, and onto their niches. Life builds biorealities that change over time. Consequently, knowledge and reality are mutable and truth is spatiotemporally bounded. We conclude that the classic distinction between epistemology and ontology has become superfluous and instead, we argue that the evolving knowledge that comes in the form of organisms and their extended niches equals ontological realities. (shrink)
Written for non-experts, this volume introduces the mechanisms that underlie reticulate evolution. Chapters are either accompanied with glossaries that explain new terminology or timelines that position pioneering scholars and their major discoveries in their historical contexts. The contributing authors outline the history and original context of discovery of symbiosis, symbiogenesis, lateral gene transfer, hybridization or divergence with gene flow, and infectious heredity. By applying key insights from the areas of molecular (phylo)genetics, microbiology, virology, ecology, systematics, immunology, epidemiology and computational science, (...) they demonstrate how reticulate evolution impacts successful survival, fitness and speciation. Reticulate evolution brings forth a challenge to the standard Neo-Darwinian framework, which defines life as the outcome of bifurcation and ramification patterns brought forth by the vertical mechanism of natural selection. Reticulate evolution puts forward a pattern in the tree of life that is characterized by horizontal mergings and lineage crossings induced by symbiosis, symbiogenesis, lateral gene transfer, hybridization or divergence with gene flow, and infective heredity, making the “tree of life” look more like a “web of life.” On an epistemological level, the various means by which hereditary material can be transferred horizontally challenges our classic notions of units and levels of evolution, fitness, modes of transmission, linearity, communities, and biological individuality. The case studies presented examine topics including the origin of the eukaryotic cell and its organelles through symbiogenesis; the origin of algae through primary and secondary symbiosis and dinoflagellates through tertiary symbiosis; the superorganism and holobiont as units of evolution; how endosymbiosis induces speciation in multicellular life forms; transferrable and non-transferrable plasmids and how they symbiotically interact with their host; the means by which pro- and eukaryotic organisms transfer genes laterally (bacterial transformation, transduction and conjugation as well as transposons and other mobile genetic elements); hybridization and divergence with gene flow in sexually-reproducing individuals; current (human) microbiome and viriome studies that impact our knowledge concerning the evolution of organismal health and acquired immunity; and how symbiosis and symbiogenesis can be modelled in computational evolution. (shrink)
Applied Evolutionary Epistemology is a scientific-philosophical theory that defines evolution as the set of phenomena whereby units evolve at levels of ontological hierarchies by mechanisms and processes. This theory also provides a methodology to study evolution, namely, studying evolution involves identifying the units that evolve, the levels at which they evolve, and the mechanisms and processes whereby they evolve. Identifying units and levels of evolution in turn requires the development of ontological hierarchy theories, and examining mechanisms and processes necessitates theorizing (...) about causality. Together, hierarchy and causality theories explain how biorealities form and diversify with time. This paper analyzes how Applied EE redefines both hierarchy and causality theories in the light of the recent explosion of network approaches to causal reasoning associated with studies on reticulate and macroevolution. Causality theories have often been framed from within a rigid, ladder-like hierarchy theory where the rungs of the ladder represent the different levels, and the elements on the rungs represent the evolving units. Causality then is either defined reductionistically as an upward movement along the strands of a singular hierarchy, or holistically as a downward movement along that same hierarchy. Upward causation theories thereby analyze causal processes in time, i.e. over the course of natural history or phylogenetically, as Darwin and the founders of the Modern Synthesis intended. Downward causation theories analyze causal processes in space, ontogenetically or ecologically, as the current eco-evo-devo schools are evidencing. This work demonstrates how macroevolution and reticulate evolution theories add to the complexity by examining reticulate causal processes in space–time, and the interactional hierarchies that such studies bring forth introduce a new form of causation that is here called reticulate causation. Reticulate causation occurs between units and levels belonging to different as well as to the same ontological hierarchies. This article concludes that beyond recognizing the existence of multiple units, levels, and mechanisms or processes of evolution, also the existence of multiple kinds of evolutionary causation as well as the existence of multiple evolutionary hierarchies needs to be acknowledged. This furthermore implies that evolution is a pluralistic process divisible into different kinds. (shrink)
How did social communication evolve in primates? In this volume, primatologists, linguists, anthropologists, cognitive scientists and philosophers of science systematically analyze how their specific disciplines demarcate the research questions and methodologies involved in the study of the evolutionary origins of social communication in primates in general, and in humans in particular. In the first part of the book, historians and philosophers of science address how the epistemological frameworks associated with primate communication and language evolution studies have changed over time, and (...) how these conceptual changes affect our current studies on the subject matter. In the second part, scholars provide cutting-edge insights into the various means through which primates communicate socially in both natural and experimental settings. They examine the behavioral building blocks by which primates communicate, and they analyze what the cognitive requirements are for displaying communicative acts. Chapters highlight cross-fostering and language experiments with primates, primate mother-infant communication, the display of emotions and expressions, manual gestures and vocal signals, joint attention, intentionality and theory of mind. The primary focus of the third part is on how these various types of communicative behavior possibly evolved, and how they can be understood as evolutionary precursors to human language. Leading scholars analyze how both manual and vocal gestures gave way to mimetic and imitational protolanguage, and how the latter possibly transitioned into human language. In the final part, we turn to the hominin lineage, and anthropologists, archeologists and linguists investigate what the necessary neurocognitive, anatomical and behavioral features are in order for human language to evolve, and how language differs from other forms of primate communication. (shrink)
Universal Darwinism provides a methodology to study the evolution of anatomical form and sociocultural behavior that centers on defining the units and levels of selection, and it identifies the conditions whereby natural selection operates. In previous work, I have examined how this selection-focused evolutionary epistemology may be universalized to include theories that associate with an extended synthesis. Applied evolutionary epistemology is a metatheoretical framework that understands any and all kinds of evolution as phenomena where units evolve by mechanisms at levels (...) of an ontological hierarchy; and it provides three heuristics to search for these units, levels and mechanisms. The heuristics are applicable to language and sociocultural evolution, and here, we give an in-depth analysis of how the unit-heuristic can be implemented into language origin and evolution studies. The importance of developing hierarchy theories is also more fully explained. (shrink)
This book is divided in two parts, the first of which shows how, beyond paleontology and systematics, macroevolutionary theories apply key insights from ecology and biogeography, developmental biology, biophysics, molecular phylogenetics, and even the sociocultural sciences to explain evolution in deep time. In the second part, the phenomenon of macroevolution is examined with the help of real life-history case studies on the evolution of eukaryotic sex, the formation of anatomical form and body-plans, extinction and speciation events of marine invertebrates, hominin (...) evolution and species conservation ethics. The book brings together leading experts, who explain pivotal concepts such as Punctuated Equilibria, Stasis, Developmental Constraints, Adaptive Radiations, Habitat Tracking, Turnovers, (Mass) Extinctions, Species Sorting, Major Transitions, Trends, and Hierarchies – key premises that allow macroevolutionary epistemic frameworks to transcend microevolutionary theories that focus on genetic variation, selection, migration and fitness. Along the way, the contributing authors review ongoing debates and current scientific challenges; detail new and fascinating scientific tools and techniques that allow us to cross the classic borders between disciplines; demonstrate how their theories make it possible to extend the Modern Synthesis; present guidelines on how the macroevolutionary field could be further developed; and provide a rich view of just how it was that life evolved across time and space. In short, this book is a must-read for active scholars and, because the technical aspects are fully explained, it is also accessible for non-specialists. Understanding evolution requires a solid grasp of above-population phenomena. Species are real biological individuals, and abiotic factors impact the future course of evolution. Beyond observation, when the explanation of macroevolution is the goal, we need both evidence and theory that enable us to explain and interpret how life evolves at the grand scale. (shrink)
Evolutionary linguistics is methodologically inspired by evolutionary psychology and the neo-Darwinian, selectionist approach. Language is claimed to have evolved by means of natural selection. The focus therefore lies not on how language evolved, but on finding out why language evolved. This latter question is answered by identifying the functional benefits and adaptive status that language provides, from which in turn selective pressures are deduced. This article analyses five of the most commonly given pressures or reasons why presumably language evolved. I (...) demonstrate that these reasons depend on functional definitions of what language is. To undo this bias, I suggest that scholars move away from the ?why? and ?what for? questions of language evolution, and focus on how language actually evolved. The latter project inquires into the distinct evolutionary mechanisms enabling the evolution of the anatomical and sociocultural traits underlying linguistic behaviour. (shrink)
For the first time in history, scholars working on language and culture from within an evolutionary epistemological framework, and thereby emphasizing complementary or deviating theories of the Modern Synthesis, were brought together. Of course there have been excellent conferences on Evolutionary Epistemology in the past, as well as numerous conferences on the topics of Language and Culture. However, until now these disciplines had not been brought together into one all-encompassing conference. Moreover, previously there never had been such stress on alternative (...) and complementary theories of the Modern Synthesis. Today we know that natural selection and evolution are far from synonymous and that they do not explain isomorphic phenomena in the world. ‘Taking Darwin seriously’ is the way to go, but today the time has come to take alternative and complementary theories that developed after the Modern Synthesis, equally seriously, and, furthermore, to examine how language and culture can merit from these diverse disciplines. As this volume will make clear, a specific inter- and transdisciplinary approach is one of the next crucial steps that needs to be taken, if we ever want to unravel the secrets of phenomena such as language and culture. (shrink)
Synonyms Cognitive universals; Human nature; Human universals Definition The “psychic unity” idea denotes the existence of a set of psychological and cognitive capacities universally shared by human beings and grounded in biological equality.
Both biosemiotics and evolutionary epistemology are concerned with how knowledge evolves. (Applied) Evolutionary Epistemology thereby focuses on identifying the units, levels, and mechanisms or processes that underlie the evolutionary development of knowing and knowledge, while biosemiotics places emphasis on the study of how signs underlie the development of meaning. We compare the two schools of thought and analyze how in delineating their research program, biosemiotics runs into several problems that are overcome by evolutionary epistemologists. For one, by emphasizing signs, biosemiotics (...) needs to delineate a semiotic threshold, which is a problem not encountered by evolutionary epistemologists. Instead, the latter recognizes that all organisms are knowers that evolve knowledge, which they recognize to extend toward phenomena produced by organisms such as behavior, cognition, language, culture, science, and technology. Secondly, biosemiotics attempts at continuing adaptationist notions on how organisms relate to their environment, while especially Applied Evolutionary Epistemology comes to redefine the nature of the organism–environment relationship in such a way that it recognizes the spatiotemporal boundedness of existence, which in turn makes adaptationist accounts obsolete. (shrink)
Language research is currently in a state of flux. The phenomenon of language is not merely the topic of investigation in linguistics, it is examined by a multitude of scholars with different scientific backgrounds. In order to examine how these various disciplines approach language, a think-tank was founded in 2002, called DITO, Dynamisch Inter(-en trans)disciplinair onderzoek, or Dynamic Inter- (and trans)disciplinary Research. The think-tank is located at the Belgian Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels). This book provides short introductory (...) articles to the language research conducted by some of the think-tank’s most important members, from within the point of view of the following 5 disciplines: philosophy of evolutionary biology, cognitive science, neuroscience, sign language research and artificial intelligence. (shrink)
Translation: How did life originate? What were the first life forms? How did the cells of our body evolve? Is natural selection the only mechanism whereby evolution occurs? What did Darwin mean with the term natural selection and do we still use that definition today? Does evolution occur slow or fast? Are we determined by our genes? We all ask ourselves these questions from time to time. Scientists however often get too technical and philosophers too speculative in their answers. This (...) book aims to form a bridge between the life and human sciences. Questions on the origin and evolution of life are analyzed critically from within different disciplines. The result is a state of the art, accessible for philosophers and scientists as well as non-academics. Many of the answered proposed can thereby be understood as complements, deviations and alternatives to the standard paradigm of biology, the Modern Synthesis. These deviating statements are bundles into 15 theses. The question then becomes in how far the Modern Synthesis should become the subject of revision based upon these theses. Original: Hoe is leven ontstaan? Welke vorm nam het eerste leven aan? Hoe ontstonden de cellen waaruit ons lichaam is opgebouwd? Is natuurlijke selectie het enige mechanisme waarlangs evolutie zich voordoet? Wat bedoelde Darwin met natuurlijke selectie en gebruiken we deze definitie vandaag nog? Voltrekt evolutie zich traag of snel? Worden we gedetermineerd door onze genen? We stellen ons allemaal deze vragen wel eens. Wetenschappers worden echter algauw te technisch en filosofen te speculatief bij het beantwoorden ervan. Dit boek wil een brug slaan tussen de natuurwetenschappen en de menswetenschappen en de vragen omtrent de oorsprong en evolutie van leven, kritisch en nuchter, vanuit verschillende disciplines analyseren. Het resultaat is een huidige stand van zaken, leesbaar, zowel voor filosofen als wetenschappers en ook voor de leek. Vele van de voorgestelde antwoorden kunnen daarbij begrepen worden als aanvullingen, afwijkingen of alternatieven van het standaardparadigma in de biologie: de Moderne Synthese. Deze afwijkende stellingen werden gebundeld in 15 thesen. De vraag is in hoeverre de Moderne Synthese, in relatie met deze thesen, onderwerp voor herziening moet zijn. (shrink)
This special issue for the Journal for General Philosophy of Science is devoted to exploring the impact and many ramifications of current research in evolutionary epistemology. Evolutionary epistemology is an inter- and multidisciplinary area of research that can be divided into two ever-inclusive research avenues. One research avenue expands on the EEM program and investigates the epistemology of evolution. The other research avenue builds on the EET program and researches the evolution of epistemology. Since its conception, EE has developed three (...) schools of thought: adaptationist, non-adaptationist, and applied EE. Although diverse in outlook and theoretical background, these research avenues and schools share the same agenda of understanding how knowledge evolves, and how it relates to the world. In this paper, we first explain wherefrom evolutionary epistemological schools of thought developed, and then we highlight current debates in EE by briefly reviewing the papers that form part of this special issue. (shrink)
Numerous evolutionary linguists have indicated that human pointing behaviour might be associated with the evolution of language. At an ontogenetic level, and in normal individuals, pointing develops spontaneously and the onset of human pointing precedes as well as facilitates phases in speech and language development. Phylogenetically, pointing behaviour might have preceded and facilitated the evolutionary origin of both gestural and vocal language. Contrary to wild non-human primates, captive and human-reared nonhuman primates also demonstrate pointing behaviour. In this article, we analyse (...) the debates on pointing and its role it might have played in language evolution from a meta-level. From within an Applied Evolutionary Epistemological approach, we examine how exactly we can determine whether pointing has been a unit, a level or a mechanism in language evolution. (shrink)
Evolutionary biologists, evolutionary epistemologists, and biosemioticians have demonstrated that organisms not merely adapt to an external world, but that they actively construct their environmental, sociocultural, and cognitive niches. Denis Noble demonstrates that such is no different for those organisms that engage in science, and he lays bare several crucial assumptions that define the scientific dogmas and practices of evolutionary biology.
Variation, adaptation, heredity and fitness, constraints and affordances, speciation, and extinction form the building blocks of the (Neo-)Darwinian research program, and several of these have been called “Darwinian principles.” Here, we suggest that caution should be taken in calling these principles Darwinian because of the important role played by reticulate evolutionary mechanisms and processes in also bringing about these phenomena. Reticulate mechanisms and processes include symbiosis, symbiogenesis, lateral gene transfer, infective heredity mediated by genetic and organismal mobility, and hybridization. Because (...) the “Darwinian principles” are brought about by both vertical and reticulate evolutionary mechanisms and processes, they should be understood as foundational for a more pluralistic theory of evolution, one that surpasses the classic scope of the Modern and the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. Reticulate evolution moreover demonstrates that what conventional (Neo-)Darwinian theories treat as intra-species features of evolution frequently involve reticulate interactions between organisms from very different taxonomic categories. Variation, adaptation, heredity and fitness, constraints and affordances, speciation, and extinction therefore cannot be understood as “traits” or “properties” of genes, organisms, species, or ecosystems because the phenomena are irreducible to specific units and levels of an evolutionary hierarchy. Instead, these general principles of evolution need to be understood as common goods that come about through interactions between different units and levels of evolutionary hierarchies, and they are exherent rather than inherent properties of individuals. (shrink)