, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 167-170
Date: 08 Apr 2011

The allure of perennial questions in biology: temporary excitement or substantive advance?

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In a provocative editorial entitled “The evo-devo comet” (EMBO Reports, 11: 489, 2010), Denis Duboule laments that evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo) is caught in the throes of “theoretical antagonism” due to a “conflicting ménage” of methodological and explanatory standards. As such, it is predisposed to diverge, “like a comet that returns closer to a planet every one hundred years to fill itself with concepts and energy before leaving for yet another journey”. Duboule expresses pessimism about the possibility of achieving an “integrated theory of evolution” while recognizing that the questions involved are perennial. Evo-devo’s advertising emphasizes that substantive theoretical, empirical, and conceptual advances on longstanding questions about the origin and evolution of biological form and function are within grasp, promising a more comprehensive evolutionary theory (see e.g., M. Pigliucci and G. Müller eds Evolution—The Extended Synthesis, 2010, MIT Press). But Duboule ...