Are there limits to evolution?

Are_there_limits_to_evolution_posterWhat will evolutionary biology look like in 50 years? More of the same or will there be new paradigms, new syntheses? What lies on the horizon?

The impact of evolution is undeniable, but it can be viewed through different lenses. For the scientist it is the investigative discipline, mapping out the history of life, uncovering its intricacies and revealing its mechanisms. For others it might be the grand narrative, and across society it brings different meanings—sometimes to the point of polarization. Ideas about evolution pervade and influence our self-understanding. Image mosaicThis was evident throughout the celebrations in 2009 of Darwin’s bicentennial and The Origin of Species’ 150 years. Yet the subject of evolution is not merely “Darwinism”, let alone “neo-Darwinism”, but a science that ought always to seek new questions, rattle the cage of existing paradigms and not rest content with received wisdom.

In September 2014 in Cambridge a conference will be held focusing on the important research objectives in evolution, discuss the best ways to achieve them, and use these to set a considered agenda for the continued study of evolution. What are the questions we now need to define? For instance:

  • Can we define biological complexity? Are there limits to complex systems?
  • How do biological systems integrate? How do horizontally transmitted genes become incorporated into the genome?
  • What is the significance of mosaic evolution?
  • Is evolutionary convergence ubiquitous? If so, is this of any wider significance?
  • How soon before we detect habitable planets and what is the significance for exobiology?
  • What is the nature of consciousness, and in the context of neuroscience are there any compelling explanations?

If you might be interested in joining this conference, or following its progress click here to find out more!

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