Evolution: Education and Outreach

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 3–7

The Extended Synthesis: Something Old, Something New


DOI: 10.1007/s12052-010-0304-3

Cite this article as:
Brooks, D.R. Evo Edu Outreach (2011) 4: 3. doi:10.1007/s12052-010-0304-3


The eclipse of Darwinism began to end in the 1980s and hangs in the balance today. We need an Extended Synthesis, using “extension” metaphorically. We must extend back in time to recover important aspects of Darwinism that were set aside, and then lost during neo-Darwinism, then move forward beyond neo-Darwinism to encompass new data and concepts. The most comprehensive framework for the Extended Synthesis is the Major Transitions in Evolution. The Extended Synthesis rests comfortably within a philosophical perspective in which biology does not need to be connected with other areas of science in order to justify itself. I am attracted to an older concept in which biology needs a covering law to connect it with the rest of the natural sciences. Darwin implicated a “higher law,” but did not specify it. If we can elucidate that law, the Extended Synthesis will become the Unified Theory of Biology called for by Brooks and Wiley 25 years ago.


Extended synthesisNeo-DarwinismDarwinismComplexity

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada