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Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Austrian Evolution Summit: The Invitation and Outline

Susan Mazur has followed up on her previous article about the upcoming conference on evolution [see Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater]. She has now published the original invitation to the conference and the first outline of the program [The Invite -- "Altenberg 16" Evolution Summit]. If you're interested in what needs to be in a new extended evolutionary theory, then get on over to Scoop and read the invitation.

Here's what the Alternberg 16 are going to talk about ...
* Drift: John Beatty, University of British Columbia
* Neutralism: Sergey Gavrilets, University of Tennessee
* Multilevel selection: David Sloan Wilson, Binghamton University

* Gene regulatory networks: Greg Wray, Duke University
* Genomes and post-genomes: Michael Purugganan, New York University
* Epigenetic inheritance: Eva Jablonka, Tel-Aviv University
* Niche inheritance: John Odling-Smee, Oxford University

* Dynamics of macroevolution: David Jablonski, University of Chicago
* Phenotypic plasticity: Massimo Pigliucci, Stony Brook University
* Origins of form: Stuart Newman, New York Medical College

* Innovation: Gerd Müller, University of Vienna
* Modularity: Günter Wagner, Yale University
* Evolvability: Marc Kirschner, Harvard University

* Non-centrality of the gene: Werner Callebaut, Hasselt University
* Principles of transition: Eörs Szathmary, Collegium Budapest
* Conceptual differences in the two syntheses: Alan Love, University of Minnesota
It looks pretty interesting. Some, but not all, of these topics need to be incorporated into modern evolutionary theory. It's too bad they're missing some other topics that should be there (group selection, species sorting, speciation). This conference would be much better if Stephen Jay Gould were still alive and could attend.


  1. It's too bad they're missing some other topics that should be there (group selection...).

    You don't believe the David Sloan Wilson talk will discuss that?

  2. It's kind of odd that you'd pick group selection and speciation as items being excluded, since David Sloan Wilson is one of the major contributors to the group selection literature, and Sergey Gavrilets has made quite a few significant contributions to the literature on speciation, including a whole book on the topic.

    I think it looks like it should be an interesting meeting... relatively low on fluff, and several really interesting participants.

  3. It's too bad they're missing some other topics that should be there (group selection, species sorting, speciation).

    I'd be surprised if Dr. Jablonski didn't at least touch on these three. Particularly species sorting, which he has included in several of his papers, for example:

    Jablonski D, Hunt G. 2006. Larval Ecology, Geographic Range, and Species Survivorship in Cretaceous Mollusks: Organismic versus Species-Level Explanations. The American Naturalist 168(4): 556-564.

    Also, to echo Eric, above, Dr. Gavrilets has written extensively about speciation, for example:

    Gavrilets S. 2000. Waiting time to parapatric speciation. Proceedings: Biological Sciences 267(1461): 2483-2492.

    It certainly does look like a very interesting gathering. I'm sorry I'll be missing it.

  4. It is a shame that this, and other conferences that hold interest to many budding scientists who cannot get the money to attend (or are too busy for all that travelling nonsense), will not be streamed or recorded and put up for download.

    I would be interested to hear about this evo-devo view on evolvability.

  5. Sugested title for this conference:

    "Darwin is dead. Long live Darwin!"


  6. Hey there, Mats! Hadn't seen you around for a while.

    RE "Darwin is dead, long live Darwin:" As PZ Myers explains in one of his recent posts, science must build on and extend what has come before, because there are reproducible observations of the way things are that won't go away. Thus Einstein extended Newton's mechanics, and the "modern synthesis" extended Darwin's work. The conference about which Dr. Moran has posted looks as if it is trying to move toward extending this synthesis.

    As Dr. Myers also explains, the settled facts on which modern work regarding evolution rests pretty well ensure that you, Mats, will not be happier with any new synthesis that you are with "Darwinism."