Evolution can be seen as an immense, nested, multi-level diversifying process, working across a wide range of temporal and spatial scales. This process explores the incomprehensibly large space of possibilities of the universe. Everything in biology is a dynamic process, from gene regulation to cellular behaviour to development to the life cycle to ecological and population-level dynamics to speciation and extinction to large-scale phylogenies and body plan evolution.
For this reason, approaches based on process philosophy have great explanatory power and potential in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). Yet they are woefully neglected! Our discipline has moved from single-gene explanations for developmental evolution to more systems-level explanations in terms of gene regulatory networks and their modular structure. However, these concepts still do not provide adequate explanations since they are static. They do not properly explain how phenotypes originate and evolve. They are a starting point rather than the end of investigations in evo-devo. We need alternative approaches, based on a processual view of reality if we are to transcend this fundamental limitation.
The overall aim of the course is to introduce process-based research approaches and conceptual frameworks to a broad range of experimentalists, theoreticians, and philosophers interested in the problem of (developmental) evolution. We discuss relevant concepts from process philosophy and dynamical systems theory through a number of foundational theoretical lectures. These will be complemented by specific examples of how process thinking can be and is already being used to get specific insights and new explanations for evolutionary and developmental dynamics. Morning lectures are followed by interactive discussions and reading clubs in small groups in the afternoons. Participants will also be able to present their own work to the teachers and the other students at a poster session on the first evening.
No previous technical skills in mathematics or programming are required to participate. Neither is any previous training in the philosophy of science. At least some basic knowledge of the foundations of evo-devo would do no harm. But the most important things to bring are an interest in deep conceptual questions in the field of evo-devo, and a willingness to discuss these questions with an open and critical mind!
* The topic of this year’s edition of our summer school is motivated by the very positive feedback the school director received on his symposium on "Process Thinking for Evo-Devo" at the EuroEvoDevo 2016 Meeting in Uppsala.
Johannes Jaeger (School Director)
Scott Gilbert (Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, U.S.A.)
James DiFrisco (KLI Klosterneuburg, Austria)
Nick Monk (University of Sheffield, U.K.)
Berta Verd (KLI Klosterneuburg, Austria)
Ron Jenner (Natural History Museum, London, U.K.)
Graham Budd (University of Uppsala, Sweden)
Stuart Kauffman (Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, WA, U.S.A.)