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Corning P.A.,Institute for the Study of Complex Systems | Szathmary E.,Center for the Conceptual Foundations of Science | Szathmary E.,Eötvös Loránd University | Szathmary E.,MTA ELTE Theoretical Biology and Evolutionary Ecology Research Group
Journal of Theoretical Biology | Year: 2015

Non-Darwinian theories about the emergence and evolution of complexity date back at least to Lamarck, and include those of Herbert Spencer and the emergent evolution theorists of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In recent decades, this approach has mostly been espoused by various practitioners in biophysics and complexity theory. However, there is a Darwinian alternative - in essence, an economic theory of complexity - proposing that synergistic effects of various kinds have played an important causal role in the evolution of complexity, especially in the major transitions. This theory is called the synergism hypothesis. We posit that otherwise unattainable functional advantages arising from various cooperative phenomena have been favored over time in a dynamic that the late John Maynard Smith characterized and modeled as synergistic selection. The term highlights the fact that synergistic wholes may become interdependent units of selection. We provide some historical perspective on this issue, as well as a brief explication of the underlying theory and the concept of synergistic selection, and we describe two relevant models. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


Corning P.A.,Institute for the Study of Complex Systems
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2014

The idea that behaviour has played an important role in evolution has had its ups and downs over the past two centuries. Now it appears to be up once again. Lamarck can claim priority for this insight, along with Darwin's more guarded view. However, there followed a long 'dark-age', which began with Weismann's mutation theory and spanned the gene-centred era that followed during most of the 20th Century, although it was punctuated by various contrarians, from Baldwin's 'Organic Selection theory' to Simpson's 'Baldwin effect', Mayr's 'Pacemaker' model, and Waddington's 'genetic assimilation', amongst others. Nowadays, even as we are reading genomes and using this information to illuminate biological causation and decipher evolutionary patterns, behavioural processes are more fully appreciated, with 'multilevel selection theory' providing a more ecumenical, multicausal model of evolutionary change. This has been accompanied by a flood of research on how behavioural influences contribute to the ongoing evolutionary process, from research on phenotypic plasticity to niche construction theory and gene-culture co-evolution theory. However, the theoretical implications of this paradigm shift still have not been fully integrated into our current thinking about evolution. Behaviour has a purpose (teleonomy); it is ends-directed. Living organisms are not passive objects of 'chance and necessity' (as Jacques Monod put it). Nor is the currently popular concept of phenotypic plasticity sufficient. Organisms are active participants in the evolutionary process (cybernetic systems) and have played a major causal role in determining its direction. It could be called 'constrained purposiveness', and one of the important themes in evolution, culminating in humankind, has been the 'progressive' evolution of self-determination (intelligence) and its ever-expanding potency. I call this agency 'Teleonomic Selection'. In a very real sense, our species invented itself. For better and worse, the course of evolution is increasingly being shaped by the 'Sorcerer's Apprentice'. Monod's mantra needs to be updated. Evolution is a process that combines 'chance, necessity, teleonomy and selection'. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London.


Corning P.A.,Institute for the Study of Complex Systems
Research in Biopolitics | Year: 2012

Purpose - This chapter focuses on the role evolution has played in our development of politics and public policy and reviews the theoretical approaches and studies of the last decade that address biopolitics and evolution, such as the ''gene-culture co-evolution theory.'' Design/methodology/approach - In this chapter some of these theoretical developments will be reviewed, including what has been called the ''Synergism Hypothesis,'' with particular emphasis on what is relevant for understanding the role of politics and public policy in the evolutionary process. Findings - A new, multileveled paradigm has emerged in evolutionary biology during the past decade, one which emphasizes the role of cooperative phenomena in the evolution of complexity over time, including the evolution of socially organized species such as humankind. I refer to it as ''Holistic Darwinism.'' Practical implications - This study develops an understanding of the complicated relationship between human biology and the role of evolution in shaping politics and public policy. Originality/value - This study addresses several existing biopolitical concepts and presents new explanations and terminology for its understanding. © 2012 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


PubMed | Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich and Institute for the Study of Complex Systems
Type: | Journal: Journal of theoretical biology | Year: 2015

Non-Darwinian theories about the emergence and evolution of complexity date back at least to Lamarck, and include those of Herbert Spencer and the emergent evolution theorists of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In recent decades, this approach has mostly been espoused by various practitioners in biophysics and complexity theory. However, there is a Darwinian alternative - in essence, an economic theory of complexity - proposing that synergistic effects of various kinds have played an important causal role in the evolution of complexity, especially in the major transitions. This theory is called the synergism hypothesis. We posit that otherwise unattainable functional advantages arising from various cooperative phenomena have been favored over time in a dynamic that the late John Maynard Smith characterized and modeled as synergistic selection. The term highlights the fact that synergistic wholes may become interdependent units of selection. We provide some historical perspective on this issue, as well as a brief explication of the underlying theory and the concept of synergistic selection, and we describe two relevant models.

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