The twentieth century's conceptual separation of the process of evolution (changes in a population as its members reproduce and die) from the process of development (changes in an organism over the course of its life) allowed scientists to study evolution without bogging down in the "messy details" of development. Advances in genetics produced the modern synthesis, which cast the gene as the unit of natural selection.
Abstract and conceptual models have become an indispensable tool for analyzing the flood of highly detailed empirical data generated in recent years by advanced techniques in the biosciences. Scientists are developing new modeling strategies for analyzing data, integrating results into the conceptual framework of theoretical biology, and formulating new hypotheses. In Modeling Biology, leading scholars investigate new modeling strategies in the domains of morphology, development, behavior, and evolution.
Although we now know that ontogeny (individual development) does not actually recapitulate phylogeny (evolutionary transformation), contrary to Ernst Haeckel's famous dictum, the relationship between embryological development and evolution remains the subject of intense scientific interest. In the 1990s a new field, evolutionary developmental biology (or Evo-Devo), was hailed as the synthesis of developmental and evolutionary biology.
Natural selection is commonly interpreted as the fundamental mechanism of evolution. Questions about how selection theory can claim to be the all-sufficient explanation of evolution often go unanswered by today’s neo-Darwinists, perhaps for fear that any criticism of the evolutionary paradigm will encourage creationists and proponents of intelligent design.
Since Darwin we have known that evolution has shaped all organisms and that biological organs—including the brain and the highly crafted animal nervous system—are subject to the pressures of natural and sexual selection. It is only relatively recently, however, that the cognitive neurosciences have begun to apply evolutionary theory and methods to the study of brain and behavior. This landmark reference documents and defines the emerging field of evolutionary cognitive neuroscience.
Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes.
These essays by leading scientists and philosophers address conceptual issues that arise in the theory and practice of evolutionary biology. The third edition of this widely used anthology has been substantially revised and updated. Four new sections have been added: on women in the evolutionary process, evolutionary psychology, laws in evolutionary theory, and race as social construction or biological reality. Other sections treat fitness, units of selection, adaptationism, reductionism, essentialism, species, phylogenetic inference, cultural evolution, and evolutionary ethics.
The psychological theory of expectation that David Huron proposes in Sweet Anticipation grew out of the author's experimental efforts to understand how music evokes emotions. These efforts evolved into a general theory of expectation that will prove informative to readers interested in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology as well as those interested in music. The book describes a set of psychological mechanisms and illustrates how these mechanisms work in the case of music. All examples of notated music can be heard on the Web.
The nature of the interplay between language learning and the evolution of a language over generational time is subtle. We can observe the learning of language by children and marvel at the phenomenon of language acquisition; the evolution of a language, however, is not so directly experienced. Language learning by children is robust and reliable, but it cannot be perfect or languages would never change—and English, for example, would not have evolved from the language of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
No biological concept has had greater impact on the way we view ourselves and the world around us than the theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin's masterful contribution was to provide an algorithmic model (a formal step-by-step procedure) of how adaptation may take place in biological systems. However, the simple process of linear incremental improvement that he described is only one algorithmic possibility, and certain biological phenomena provide the possibility of implementing alternative processes.