European Molecular Biology Organization – EMBO
Any adequate theory of evolutionary change must cover both the sources and the consequences of phenotypic variation. On the one hand, we must understand the various processes—genetic, metabolic, physiological, developmental, and behavioral—that generate variation. On the other hand, we must understand the sorting processes that lead to the differential survival of different variants. The latter aspect is covered by traditional evolutionary genetics, with its well-developed set of concepts and models. In contrast, there seems to be no overarching theory or unifying framework able to explain the enormous diversity of processes generating variation. These processes are not only dauntingly complex, but also occur at many different levels of organization—from the molecular to the cellular, tissue, organ, organismic, and even supra-organismic levels (ecological or social). We could conclude from this that no theory of the sources of variation is possible, or we could call for a novel, empirically grounded, organismic systems biology that integrates philosophical, mathematical, and experimental approaches to tackle the issue. We will look at this project from a broad theoretical vantage point to assess the future of evolutionary and developmental systems biology.
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