International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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WEDNESDAY, JULY 8  /  11:00 - 12:30  /  DS-M340
Individual papers
Perspectives on Human Evolution

Beyond standard body?

Peggy Tessier (IHPST/ Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France)

New body reconstruction techniques, i.e., technologies such as implantation of high-tech prostheses or surgical face transplant, require a shift from homeostasis to allostasis. In the context of classical biology, homeostasis is basically the return to “normal” conditions (Claude Bernard, 1865), while allostasis has been defined as "remaining stable by being variable" (Sterling & Eyer, 1988). It is probably the whole history of disability that hangs in the balance with this transition. Historically, logic of "compensation" has provided opportunities to people with disabilities in order for them to do what "everyone" can do (and, as a result, to restore homeostasis). The development of prosthetic devices has been part of such a process of "standardization", whose purpose was to gradually phase out the difference between disabled and non-disabled persons. However, this logic of "compensation" has driven these opportunities to a point where the classical definition of “disability” necessarily changes. In this presentation, I will present the allostatic model that emerged in the 1970s, which relies on new social practices concerning Nature and Biomedical Sciences (Arminjon, 2014). I will then show that, today, the new prosthesis, even more sophisticated, not merely enable to compensate (to provide a return to normal), but enable to offer another allure de la vie, "pace of life" (Canguilhem, 1966). Finally, I will try to clarify how the concept of “standard body” has changed through this shift.

Niche construction and neoteny: The evolution of language within an updated evolutionary research program

Francesco Suman (Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy)

In the evolution of language debate some scholars rely on the primacy of natural selection as the only factor shaping traits (selection as a designer), others rely on the role played by phenotypic and developmental constraints in the evolvability of structural and functional traits (evolutionary tinkering). In order to enrich this too much radicalized debate, we should have a look at the overall status of evolutionary theory (Pievani, 2015); today, two different conceptions seems to be in place: one which argues that a rethinking of the theory is necessary and the other arguing it is not necessary (Laland et al., 2014). The former emphasizes the fact that four phenomena in particular should gain more importance within the evolutionary research program: phenotypic plasticity, niche construction, inclusive inheritance, developmental bias. With recent data coming from brain evolution and development (molecular level) and data coming from hominin anatomy and behavior seen through the lens of niche construction theory (ecological level), it is possible to gain an integrated view of the selective pressures which might have acted during hominin evolution (with particular attention to relaxed selective pressures and their effects on neotenic traits), in order to understand the interplay between biological and cultural evolution and its effects on the evolution of complex traits such as human language.

Human self-domestication hypothesis: Developmental considerations

Bernardo Yañez (Centro de Estudios Filosóficos, Políticos y Sociales Vicente Lombardo Toledano, Mexico); Vera José Luis (Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico)

Domestication syndrome characterizes a set of features from animals and plants that had been exposed to artificial selection through time. In this sense, several academic references had established that the domesticated species share a suite of morphological and behavioral traits which had been interpreted as byproducts of the domestication process. In the case of humans there are some particular morphological and behavioral traits that seem to be related to a self-domestication process (Wrangham et al. 2014). Furthermore, in the primatological literature there is also an interesting proposal in this sense which is used to explain the differences between common chimpanzees and bonobos (Hare et al. 2012). In this paper we would like to highlight two particular claims: I) that Hare and colleagues (2012) show a strong intent to incorporate a developmental perspective in this approximation. However, we have not been able to discern precisely which is the notion of ‘development’ that these authors are taking into account. This clarification is not a minor aspect; rather we believe it is crucial in terms of the epistemological accuracy that can be established with some perspectives of evo-devo approaches. II) Our impression is that there is still a significant reminiscence of the adaptationist program. For instance, they propose a hypothesis in which selection against aggression is at the heart of the conundrum; however, what is surprising is that they propose that selection in favor of aggression is the principal alternative hypothesis. Our contention is that we think there is sufficient theoretical background to try to work out a different explanation in which adaptation plays an important role but not necessarily the most fundamental. Rather, a multifactorial set of events, particularly in the developmental pathways of primates in this case, could be a more explanatory perspective.