Biologist David Sloan Wilson’s acclaimed book, Darwin’s Cathedral, advances the thesis that organized religion is not for the most part an irrational, or exploitative phenomenon, much less a non-functional cultural “spandrel”. He makes a compelling case.
Richard Dawkins ‘selfish gene’ metaphor is a one-sided caricature. Even Dawkins himself has admitted that genes must also cooperate to be successful. As Dawkins says, “it’s the team that evolves.”
Holistic Darwinism is a candidate name for a major paradigm shift that is currently underway in evolutionary biology and related disciplines. Here I discuss some of the recent developments and focus especially on the effort to account for the evolution of biological complexity – from “major transition theory” to the “Synergism Hypothesis.”
Schneider and Sagan claim that energy flows “generate, perpetuate, elaborate,” biological complexity. They claim too much for thermodynamics and slight the functional, economic drivers – the costs and benefits in a given environment and natural selection.
“Emergence” is a concept with a venerable history and an ambiguous standing in evolutionary theory. This paper briefly recounts the history of the term and details some of its current usages. The reductionist approach to explaining complexity has entailed a search for underlying “laws of emergence.” Another alternative is the “Synergism Hypothesis,” which focuses on the “economics” – the functional effects produced by emergent wholes and their selective consequences.
There have been many different ways of characterizing and describing the phenomenon of life over the years. Synergy should be added to the list.
Calls for a paradigm shift, a refocusing of evolutionary biology to address the rise of complex systems over time and their emergence as distinct units of selection, with special reference to the causal role of synergy, thermodynamics, information theory, and the bioeconomic influences underlying evolutionary change.