Paradigm shift (or lack thereof) in evolutionary theory

20 March 2015

Massimo Pigliucci
Department of Philosophy
City University of New York


One often hears talk of "paradigm shifts" in science in general and in evolutionary biology in particular. In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the differences between the Modern Synthesis of the 1940s and '50s and various proposals for an Extended Synthesis that accomodates novel empirical discoveries and conceptual advances made over the past several decades. But is the Extended Synthesis an example of paradigm shift in biology? What is a paradigm shift, anyway? In this talk I present two major examples of theoretical transitions in biology – the move from natural theology to Darwinism and the move from the Modern to the Extended Synthesis – and defend the view that the first but not the second one represented a genuined paradigm shift, arguably the only time in the history of biology in which any such shift has occurred.

current theory lunch schedule