Friday, September 30, 2016

Extending evolutionary theory? - Douglas Futuyma

I will be attending the Royal Society Meeting on New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives. I'll post each of the abstracts and ask for your help in deciding what question to pose to the speakers. Here's the abstract for Douglas Futuyma's talk on The evolutionary synthesis today: extend or amend?

Evolutionary theory has been extended almost continually since the Evolutionary Synthesis, but the principal tenets of the Synthesis have been strongly supported, the single most important exception being the greater importance accorded genetic drift, especially in molecular evolution. The calls for an extended synthesis today are largely a continuation of this process. Some elements of the EES movement, such as the role of niche construction, are welcome emphases on long recognised but perhaps under-studied processes. The union of population genetic theory with mechanistic understanding of molecular and developmental processes is a potentially productive conjunction of ultimate and proximal causation; but the latter does not replace or invalidate the former. Newly discovered molecular genetic phenomena have been easily accommodated by orthodox evolutionary theory in the past, and this appears to hold also for phenomena such as epigenetic inheritance today. In several of these areas, empirical evidence is needed to evaluate enthusiastic speculation. Evolutionary theory today will continue to be extended, but there is no sign that it requires emendation.
Here are two possible questions for Futuyma.
Why do you think that most participants at this meeting seem to be unaware of random genetic drift and the evolution of structures and phenotypes by nonadaptive processes? Doesn't this strike you as bizarre for a group that's so concerned about evolutionary theory?

As you explain in your textbook, describing the pathways to modern species contributes to the FACT of evolution and the FACT of descent with modification but how those genetic changes actually occur and become fixed is part of evolutionary theory. Do you distinguish between evolutionary theory and the actual history of life?


8 comments :

  1. i have an interesting question about genetic drift: according to evolution fly and mosquito split off about 250 my ago. fly generation is about less than one month. so even if one generation mean only 1 new mutation we will need only 10^8 month to change his entire genome. or about less than 10^7 years. so fly and mosquito are suppose to be different in about their entire genomes from each other. far from reality. so maybe most of the mutations in the coding region arent neutral?

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    1. I think that Futuyama already agrees that not all mutations in coding regions are neutral.

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    2. Wow, that is just such an awesome question dcscccc.

      Hey Larry, pick this one! Take it to a conference, walk up to a podium and then pose it. Maybe wave your arms a bit and make a whooshing sound, then leave.

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  2. I am only an interested amateur who enjoys reading the posts here and trying to understand them. I read three of the abstracts and was, to put it mildly, dazed and confused. But I understood Futuyma's. I may be over confident in my analytical skills and knowledge, but I actually think that says something.

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    1. I am pretty sure that unofficial pseudoscience charts have excessive specialized jargon and dense sentence structure as high index scores. For example:

      "Whereas the classical theory had concentrated on genes and adaptive variation in populations, the extended framework emphasises the role of constructive processes, environmental induction, and systems dynamics in the evolution of organismal complexity. Single level and unilinear causation is replaced by multilevel and reciprocal causation."--Muller

      I mean, c'mon. There are such better ways to communicate this information, but the author has chosen to use nearly impenetrable jargon and prose. I don't know about other scientists, but this type of writing always sets off my BS detector.

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  3. I am sure Doug will also be one of the (few?) voices of sanity at the meeting. Basically he is saying here that many of the developments that people are saying require a new synthesis (named, of course, after themselves) are actually successfully being assimilated into the current theory.

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  4. Is greater important to generic drift mean its the most important? An issue on this blog I think.
    Stephen Gould complained about this guy's opposition to PE.
    Ask him PE a important matter in evolution and if so why is it not worthy of being mentioned in summaries?

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