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Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 203–219 | Cite as

Homeostasis and the physiological dimension of niche construction theory in ecology and evolution

  • J. Scott TurnerEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Niche construction theory (NCT) has been represented as a new and comprehensive theory of evolution, one that breaks the constraints imposed by the dominant and largely gene-selectionist standard evolutionary model that is presently mischaracterized as “Darwinian.” I will argue that NCT is not so much a new theory, as it is a fruitful readmission of a venerable physiological perspective on adaptation, selection and evolution. This perspective is closer in spirit and philosophy to the original (and richer) Darwinian idea developed by Darwin himself, and that animated much of the rich late nineteenth century debate about evolution, heredity, adaptation and development, a debate that was largely eclipsed by the early twentieth century emergence of the Neodarwinian synthesis. I will argue that a full realization of the promise of NCT turns on a full understanding of another intellectual revolution of the nineteenth century, Claude Bernard’s conception of homeostasis, a profound statement of the nature of life that has, through the twentieth century, come to be widely misunderstood and trivialized.

Keywords

Niche construction Physiology Homeostasis Persistent dynamic disequilibrium Cognition Purposefulness Intentionality Adaptation Extended organism 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Part of this article is a précis of a book written with the support of a fellowship from the John C Templeton Foundation. Sponsors of the research that shaped this work also include the Human Frontiers Science Program, the National Geographic Society, the US Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologySUNY College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseUSA

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