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

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FRIDAY, JULY 10  /  11:00 - 12:30  /  DS-R510
Individual papers
Evolutionary Laws? Randomness, Causality

Neo-Darwinism and evo-devo: An argument for theoretical pluralism in evolutionary biology

Lindsay Craig** (Temple University, United States)

There is an ongoing debate over the relationship between so-called neo-Darwinism and evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) that is motivated in part by the possibility of a theoretical synthesis of the two (e.g., Amundson 2005; Brigandt and Love 2010; Laubichler 2010; Minelli 2010; Pigliucci and Müller 2010). Through analysis of the terms and arguments employed in this debate, I argue that an alternative line of argument has been missed. Specifically, I use the terms of this debate to argue that a relative significance issue (Beatty 1995, 1997) exists and reflects a theoretical pluralism that is likely to remain.

The world is more random than we realize: Proteins as a complex system

Leonore Fleming** (Utica College, United States)

Within the last ten years there has been a shift in how we understand proteins. The ‘sequence-structure-function’ paradigm, which is based on the notion that a specific string of amino acids codes for one uniquely folded protein, is slowly being replaced with the understanding that intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) play an important role in molecular biology. It is now clear that a complete folded structure is not necessary for a protein to function. In fact, the dynamic nature of an IDP—the ability to shift between unfolded, partially folded, and fully folded forms—confers upon it the ability to fill a variety of different roles. Thus, understanding protein function requires insight beyond the mere sequence of amino acids; it requires knowledge of environmental contingency and variation. A reductive exploration of proteins as pre-programmed entities provides only a snapshot of current structure and function, whereas an account of proteins as part of a complex system explains their structure and function as largely a result of networks of interactions. One consequence of this approach is that evolutionary questions about adaptation must be addressed at the higher level, investigating system dynamics like plasticity and evolvability.