Evolution is a fundamental process that shaped life on our planet, and its results are all around us. Charles Darwin drew on the physical sciences and industrial practices of his time to produce a gradualist theory of evolution that remains dominant to the present. The Darwinian modern synthesis, which focuses on genes of small phenotypic effect, is increasingly being challenged, however, by the newer concepts of evolutionary developmental biology. “Evodevo” informed by the modern physics of nonlinearity and abrupt material transformations, sees the changes of form of developing embryos and tissues as a source of nongradual (“punctuated,” as per the paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge) variation. And rather than focusing on organisms as passive objects of selection, competing for the same resources as their cohorts, evodevo sees them as active agents, “subjects” of the evolutionary process in the formulation of the late population geneticist Richard Lewontin. These newer ideas can account for features of organismal anatomy and function, and phylogenetic relationships, which are unexplained by the modern synthesis.
Join us on May 6 at 4 PM ET for a discussion on evolutionary developmental biology, or “EvoDevo” with cell biologist, Stuart Newman.
Stuart A. Newman is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York. His early scientific training was in chemistry (A.B., Columbia, Ph.D., University of Chicago), but he moved into biology, both experimental and theoretical. He has contributed to several fields, including biophysical chemistry, embryonic morphogenesis, and evolutionary theory. He has also written on societal issues related to research in developmental biology. Newman was a member of the original Science for the People organization and was a founding member in the early 1980s of the Council for Responsible Genetics (Cambridge, Mass.).