Systems Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection
602 pp., 7 x 10 in,
- Published: November 22, 1994
- Published: June 3, 1996
Darwinism Evolving examines the Darwinian research tradition in evolutionary biology from its inception to its turbulent present, arguing that recent advances in modeling the nonlinear dynamics of complex systems may well catalyze the next major phase of Darwinian evolutionism.
While Darwinism has successfully resisted reduction to physics, the authors point out that it has from the outset developed and applied its core explanatory concept, natural selection, by borrowing models from dynamics, a branch of physics. The recent development of complex systems dynamics may afford Darwinism yet another occasion to expand its explanatory power.
Darwinism's use of dynamical models has received insufficient attention from biologists, historians, and philosophers who have concentrated instead on how evolutionary biology has maintained its autonomy from physics. Yet, as Depew and Weber observe, it is only by recovering Darwin's own relationship to Newtonian models of systems dynamics, and genetical Darwinism's relationship to statistical mechanics and probability theory, that insight can be gained into how Darwinism can successfully meet the challenges it is currently facing.
Drawing on recent scholarship in the history of biology, Depew and Weber bring the dynamical perspective to bear on a number of important episodes in the history of the Darwinian research tradition: Darwin's "Newtonian" Darwinism, the rise of "developmentalist" evolutionary theories and the eclipse of Darwinism at the turn of the century, Darwinism's struggles to incorporate genetics, its eventual regeneration in the modern evolutionary synthesis, challenges to that synthesis that have been posed in recent decades by molecular genetics, and recent proposals for meeting those challenges.
Bradford Books imprint
This is an important book. It places the recent attempts to apply systems dynamics to evolutionary biology into a new context, and provides an important perspective on the history of Darwinism, on the current turmoil in evolutionary biology, and on the directions in which one might look for a reconciliation between theories of complex systems and (new) Darwinian biology that emerges from Depew and Weber's analysis provides a structure that illuminates evolutionary biology for a wider scholarly audience even as it raises important historical and conceptual issues about the character of Darwinian biology and of Darwinism in its many guises.
Richard M. Burian, Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
This book is full of sparkling pivotal insights, most deriving from seeing the physical and biological sciences as conceptual allies, rather than partners in an unequal vassalage. This book is also unual in its breathtaking scope, simultaneously bringing us first rate work of philosophy, history, and science. It is a clear narrative of the evolution of evolutionary theory through its trajectory of cultural and scientific environments, emerging from the history to the present adn near future on as well developed and believable trajectory.
William C. Wimsatt, Professor of Philosophy, Evolutionary Biology, and Conceptual Fondations of Science, The University of Chicago
In this fine book, Depew and Weber trace Darwin's conception of evolution in Newronian terms, its transformation this centruy to the statistical views of the 'Syntheis,' and the possible renewal of the core Darwinian paradigm in the emerging sciences of complexity. This is a deeply thoughtful and cogent work. It merits very serious attention.
Staurt A. Kauffman, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics University of Pennsylvania and the Santa Fe Institute
David Depew and Bruce Weber have produced a challenging and strong-minded history of evolutionary thought – a history they see leading ineluctably to the incorporation of recent contributions to complex systems dynamics into an expanded evolutionary theory. Their clear prose provides an accurate guide to the evolutionary debates sure to prove stimulating and informative to anyone with an interest in the evolutionary process.
Niles Eldredge, Curator, Department of Invertebrates, American Museum of Natural History
This volume by Depew and Weber constitutes an academic contribution of the first rank. What the authors uncover about the past and propose for the future is revolutionary, indeed! They do not pretend to have made a watertight case for extending the Darwinian paradigm, but they certainly lay before the reader a delightful narrative of the possibilities.
Robert Ulanowicz, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory of the University of Maryland