possibilities for future research into evolution

A week or so back I posted comments by Massimo Pigliucci about future directions for evolution research. He was speaking in the context of an international workshop where these new ideas and directions were up for discussion. Well, that workshop’s over, material from it is available on-line (parts 1, 2, & 3), and the participants have published a statement summarising their conclusions:

The new information includes findings from the continuing molecular biology revolution, as well as a large body of empirical knowledge on genetic variation in natural populations, phenotypic plasticity, phylogenetics, species-level stasis and punctuational evolution, and developmental biology, among others.

The new concepts include (but are not limited to): evolvability, developmental plasticity, phenotypic and genetic accommodation, punctuated evolution, phenotypic innovation, facilitated variation, epigenetic inheritance, and multi-level selection.

By incorporating these new results and insights into our understanding of evolution, we believe that the explanatory power of evolutionary theory is greatly expanded within biology and beyond. As is the nature of science, some of the new ideas will stand the test of time, while others will be significantly modified. Nonetheless, there is much justified excitement in evolutionary biology these days. This is a propitious time to engage the scientific community in a vast interdisciplinary effort to further our understanding of how life evolves.


(Funnily enough, at Scicon someone asked me what I thought would be the new ‘evolutionary paradigm’ for future research. I said, I don’t know about a new ‘paradigm’, but I’d pick epigenetics as an expanding new area. Not a bad guess, it seems!)

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