Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 137, Issue 2, pp 169–184 | Cite as

The emerging structure of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: where does Evo-Devo fit in?

  • Alejandro Fábregas-TejedaEmail author
  • Francisco Vergara-SilvaEmail author
Original Article


The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) debate is gaining ground in contemporary evolutionary biology. In parallel, a number of philosophical standpoints have emerged in an attempt to clarify what exactly is represented by the EES. For Massimo Pigliucci, we are in the wake of the newest instantiation of a persisting Kuhnian paradigm; in contrast, Telmo Pievani has contended that the transition to an EES could be best represented as a progressive reformation of a prior Lakatosian scientific research program, with the extension of its Neo-Darwinian core and the addition of a brand-new protective belt of assumptions and auxiliary hypotheses. Here, we argue that those philosophical vantage points are not the only ways to interpret what current proposals to ‘extend’ the Modern Synthesis-derived ‘standard evolutionary theory’ (SET) entail in terms of theoretical change in evolutionary biology. We specifically propose the image of the emergent EES as a vast network of models and interweaved representations that, instantiated in diverse practices, are connected and related in multiple ways. Under that assumption, the EES could be articulated around a paraconsistent network of evolutionary theories (including some elements of the SET), as well as models, practices and representation systems of contemporary evolutionary biology, with edges and nodes that change their position and centrality as a consequence of the co-construction and stabilization of facts and historical discussions revolving around the epistemic goals of this area of the life sciences. We then critically examine the purported structure of the EES—published by Laland and collaborators in 2015—in light of our own network-based proposal. Finally, we consider which epistemic units of Evo-Devo are present or still missing from the EES, in preparation for further analyses of the topic of explanatory integration in this conceptual framework.


Extended Evolutionary Synthesis Evolutionary biology Paradigm Scientific research program Epistemic units Evo-Devo 



The authors acknowledge the advice and assistance of Fátima Sofía Ávila-Cascajares during the conception of Fig. 1, and thank Casandra Lizbeth Méndez-Martínez for her aid in the design of Fig. 1. Diana Martínez Almaguer and Julio César Montero Rojas (Graphic Design Unit, Instituto de Biología, UNAM) assisted in the design of all figures of the article. We also thank Mario Casanueva for discussions and his critical remarks about the structure of the EES. The comments and feedback received from Alan Love and Kevin Laland during the presentation of this work at the 2017 Meeting of the International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) in São Paulo, Brazil, were valuable for the preparation of revised versions of this work; at the same meeting, we also benefited from conversations with Eva Jablonka, Marion Lamb and Jan Baedke about the sociological, epistemological and political dimensions involved in the EES debate. AFT is indebted to participants in the poster session of the Sixth Meeting of the European Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology (Uppsala, July 2016), especially to Mark Jonas. AFT also thanks Francesco Suman for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript and discussions on the structure of the EES and the pluralist landscape of contemporary evolutionism (Washington D.C., September 2016). FVS acknowledges facilities provided by libraries at the Instituto de Biología, UNAM and other academic institutions in Mexico City, Uppsala and London during his long-term research projects on the historiography, epistemology and sociology of biology. Finally, we thank an anonymous reviewer for critical comments which substantially improved the original manuscript. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest, and that they did not receive any specific funding during the research and writing of this work.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Biología (Jardín Botánico)Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  2. 2.Posgrado en Filosofía de la CienciaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico

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