Statement on Current Evolutionary Theory: Comments?

I came across the following statement:

“Contemporary evolutionary biology comprises a plural landscape of multiple co-existent conceptual frameworks and strenuous voices that disagree on the nature and scope of evolutionary theory.” (Fábregas-Tejeda and Francisco 2018, p. 127)

The source is:

Fábregas-Tejeda, Alejandro, and Vergara-Silva Francisco. 2018. Hierarchy Theory of Evolution and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: Some Epistemic Bridges, Some Conceptual Rifts. Evolutionary Biology 45: 127–39.

I neither affirm nor deny the statement, but post it so that those who wish to comment on it – positively or negatively – may do so.

Probably true in some sense? But isn’t that true of almost any active area of research?


I wonder what the “nature and scope” of these disagreements are. Does he mean disagreements about details within the overarching paradigm of evolution by natural selection or the existence of competing paradigms to evolution by natural selection? Of course scientists disagree within the overall paradigm. Competing hypotheses are what we do. Last year one of my classes created a professor buzz word bingo card and four of the squares were some variation of “scientists disagree.”


Looks like a quote-mine.


It’s called a rhetorical device. Taken out of context, rather meaningless.


It seems suspicious that you just quoted from the abstract. Have you read the paper, Eddie? It took me less than 30 seconds to find a downloadable PDF of it.

Is this the sort of reading that you think that lower-caste “technical” biologists should be doing?


The full paper can be found at the link below. @Eddie has copy/pasted the first sentence of the abstract. I wonder how far he has read beyond that.


I thought that myself. Here, at least, is the full paper-abstract that it was taken from:

Contemporary evolutionary biology comprises a plural landscape of multiple co-existent conceptual frameworks and strenuous voices that disagree on the nature and scope of evolutionary theory. Since the mid-eighties, some of these conceptual frameworks have denounced the ontologies of the Modern Synthesis and of the updated Standard Theory of Evolution as unfinished or even flawed. In this paper, we analyze and compare two of those conceptual frameworks, namely Niles Eldredge’s Hierarchy Theory of Evolution (with its extended ontology of evolutionary entities) and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (with its proposal of an extended ontology of evolutionary processes) , in an attempt to map some epistemic bridges (e.g. compatible views of causation; niche construction) and some conceptual rifts (e.g. extra-genetic inheritance; different perspectives on macroevolution; contrasting standpoints held in the “externalism–internalism” debate) that exist between them. This paper seeks to encourage theoretical, philosophical and historiographical discussions about pluralism or the possible unification of contemporary evolutionary biology.

The full paper can be found at Google Scholar here, but may (or may not) be behind a paywall for some.

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The Abstract can be found at Hierarchy Theory of Evolution and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: Some Epistemic Bridges, Some Conceptual Rifts | Evolutionary Biology. I do not have access to the article itself. However, there must be several people here with such access, and I would think that at least some of them ought to be interested in an article on this subject, so perhaps one or more of them will read the article and discuss its contents.

Yet as a working scientist, you presumably have institutional access to the journal in which the article is found, and so are capable of establishing that context. I have provided all the information necessary for anyone here with access to Springer journals to obtain and read the article. So if the quotation cannot be assessed without reading the article in which it is found, there is an easy remedy for that problem. In any case, the Abstract provides at least some context, and I have already linked to that.

False. As both Faizal and I noted, the PDF is freely available without institutional access. I found it in less than 30 seconds.

Please don’t cut/paste passages from papers you haven’t bothered to read for yourself.


I did. Maybe someone here can explain to @Eddie what a rhetorical device is.


Found on Internet, but I traced the original source to .Incidental Comics by Grant Snyder (2011)


Y’all should take it easy on Eddie. Its not a fight.


I doubt he even read that. It’s far more likely @Eddie “came across” the statement here, where it’s presented and cited exactly as it was by Eddie, with one author listed by surname and the other one by forename, and which citation form Google can’t find elsewhere. If so, @Eddie is lucky Hunter didn’t miscopy the text as well as the citation.

'Fess up, @Eddie.


The article begins with an extended quote from Niles Eldridge:

(…) the problem with contemporary evolutionary theory is not that its essential neo-Darwinian paradigm is incorrect. The problem is that the consistency argument of the synthesis (…) is itself troubled. That argument says that the core neo-Darwinian paradigm (the theory that deals with the origin, maintenance, and modification of within-population genetic structure) is consistent with all other known evolutionary phenomena. This credo, innocuous and undeniable as it is, has been expanded to mean that the neo-Darwinian paradigm of selection plus drift, are both necessary and
sufficient to explain all other known evolutionary phenomena. My position here, and the position of all other doubters of the completeness of the synthesis that I know of, is simply that the neo-Darwinian paradigm is indeed necessary—but is not sufficient—to handle the totality of known evolutionary phenomena…

There is one further sentence I have omitted, and which interested parties can read for themselves, since (as has been noted) the article is freely available on the internet for anyone even without institutional access.

The point being that it would be quite easy to extract a quote from the article if one wished to chiefly argue that the truth of Neo-Darwinism is “undeniable” and, moreover, that Neo-Darwinism is “necessary” for an understanding of evolutionary phenomena.


Given Eddie, it will be, soon enough.


Thanks to Michael for this. Indeed, I posted the claim without comment, and without any combative tone. The first two responses to my post were in the spirit in which I posted, and provided moderate remarks and reasonable questions. Then the usual set of reactions, from the usual suspects, came rolling in.

Regarding my inability to obtain a copy, I went to the site, Springer, which published the journal in question, and found that it was not an open access article. I have since obtained the article by another and seemingly legal route, pointed out to me by a biologist friend. But there’s something a bit puerile-macho about a group of people who are in a professional field piling on to someone who isn’t in that field because he’s not as fast at getting around paywalls as they are.

In any case, the statement I quoted is either a correct or incorrect characterization of the state of evolutionary theory, and those who boast of great and authoritative knowledge of that field (which seems to be the self-appraisal of at least some people here) ought to be able to comment on it as it stands, based on their intimate knowledge of work in the area, even without the article. But I for one intend to read the article now that I have it.

It will be interesting to see if the conversation now turns to the intellectual substance of the article, rather than to the degree of science-librarial competence of the non-scientist contributor who brought the article to people’s attention.

It doesn’t have to. That quote can be discussed without any sort of unnecessary belligerence.


Why should it, given that you hadn’t even read the article before copy/pasting? It seems to me that writing your excuses for not finding and reading it took longer than engaging on any matter of intellectual substance.

I’ll ask a simple question again:


Irrelevant. To anyone who really knows the field of evolutionary theory, the statement as quoted can be assessed on its own. I asked for a discussion of the statement, not of the article in which it appeared.

I won’t let you put words in my mouth, but will say that the article is an example of “the sort of reading” that anyone who specializes in evolutionary theory should be doing. Of course not all biologists specialize in evolutionary theory, and therefore not all would find it relevant to their particular interests in biology. But anyone inclined to making grand claims about how evolution works should be reading articles of this type – yes.