Subject: Biology And Life Sciences, Other Keywords: historical kinds; individuation; cultural evolution; evolutionary innovation
Online: 22 September 2020 (08:45:54 CEST)
Two welcome extensions of evolutionary thinking have come to prominence over the last thirty years: the so-called “extended evolutionary synthesis” (EES) and debate about biological kinds and individuals. These two agendas have, however, remained orthogonal to one another. The EES has mostly restricted itself to widening the explanations of adaptation offered by the preceding “modern evolutionary synthesis” by including additional mechanisms of inheritance and variation; while discussion of biological kinds has turned toward philosophical questions of essential vs. contingent properties of life forms and realist vs. epistemological approaches to categorization and classification. Here we attempt to broaden the explanatory scope of evolutionary theory by linking these two agendas. We expand on the mechanistic orientation of the EES, using new understandings of networked systems of components in order to engage the distinct intellectual challenge of the origination of historical kinds. With this phrase we designate a subset of natural kinds that acquires, through evolutionary processes, a quasi-independent lineage-history. Such kinds emerge in both biology and culture, and we enlarge the limited number of historical kinds that have thus far been recognized in evolutionary biology in a series of paradigmatic exemplars, from genes and cell types to rituals and music. For each exemplar we discern specific mechanisms by which it arose and persists; comparing these, we suggest a general unity in the ways in which diverse historical kinds originate.
ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints201904.0266.v1
Subject: Biology And Life Sciences, Other Keywords: historical individuals, extended evolutionary synthesis, evolutionary innovation, culture
Online: 24 April 2019 (11:20:29 CEST)
Since its inception, evolutionary theory has experienced a number of extensions. The most important of these took the forms of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis (MES), embracing genetics and population biology in the early 20th century, and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) of the last thirty years, embracing, among other factors, non-genetic forms of inheritance. While we appreciate the motivation for this recent extension, we argue that it does not go far enough, since it restricts itself to widening explanations of adaptation by adding mechanisms of inheritance and variation. A more thoroughgoing extension is needed, one that widens the explanatory scope of evolutionary theory. In addition to adaptation and its various mechanisms, evolutionary theory must recognize as a distinct intellectual challenge the origin of what we call “historical kinds.” Under historical kinds we include any process that acquires a quasi-independent and traceable lineage-history in biological and cultural evolution. We develop the notion of a historical kind in a series of paradigmatic exemplars, from genes and homologues to rituals and music, and we propose a preliminary characterization.