Short-term Visitor

What is evolutionary synthesis? The NESCent experience

PI(s): Emanuele Serrelli (University of Milano Bicocca)
Start Date: 30-Jun-2014
End Date: 18-Jul-2014
Keywords: evolutionary theory, communication, specialization, education

I propose a historical study of NESCent, of which the short-­‐term visit will be the pivotal moment. The story of NESCent, interesting per se, will also be the base of a new philosophical analysis of the idea of ‘synthesis’ in science, specifically in evolutionary biology. In particular, my perspective emphasizes community building and community transformation that is not adequately captured either by theoretical analyses of scientific concepts or by occasional combinations of individual studies. Synthesis is to be seen as some kind of change or novelty in the scientific community. The project will take move from my research on the Modern Synthesis and on the “Extended Evolutionary Synthesis” proposed by Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd Müller in recent years. Such research of mine resulted in the recommendation to switch away from a purely conceptual approach, to approaches that are more adequate to the complexity of ‘metascientific claims’, i.e. claims about what is it to do research in evolutionary biology. The two parts of the NESCent Evolution paper (Sidlauskas et al. 2010) will be a further starting point. The first part, on the different kinds of synthesis, will be a grid to mapping the whole body of NESCent production. The second part, about obstacles to synthesis, will aid in seeing synthesis as a social, political process in the scientific community. The program of the Evolution 2014 meeting in Raleigh will be studied as a sample of the evolutionary biology scientific community, to be compared with NESCent production, and to be related to NESCent proactivity.