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 Gerd B. Müller's talk on The extended evolutionary synthesis.
Since the last major conceptual integration in evolutionary biology – the Modern Synthesis of the 1940s – the biosciences have made significant advances. The rise of molecular biology and evolutionary developmental biology, the recognition of ecological development, niche construction and of multiple inheritance systems, the -omics revolution and the science of systems biology, among other developments, have provided a wealth of new knowledge regarding the mechanisms of evolutionary change. Some of these results are in agreement with the classical Synthetic Theory and others reveal different properties of evolutionary change. A renewed and extended evolutionary synthesis unites pertinent concepts emerging from these novel fields with elements from the standard theory, but it differs from the latter in its core logic and predictive capacities. 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. Among other consequences, this entails a revised understanding of the role of natural selection in the evolutionary process. The extended evolutionary synthesis complements the traditional gene centric perspective and stimulates research into new areas of evolutionary biology.There are so many things I could ask. I'm tempted to ask the following question,
Many of us believe that the role of adaptation in evolutionary theory was considerably revised by the development of Neutral Theory and Nearly-Neutral Theory almost 50 years ago. These concepts, and the importance of random genetic drift, have been integrated into the standard textbooks for many decades. Why don't you ever talk about those challenges to the old 1940s version of the Modern Synthesis? Is it because you don't think they were significant additions to the old theory?