Pigliucci on agenda for Altenberg meeting

Massimo Pigliucci describes the agenda for the upcoming Altenberg meeting, attempting to hash out the place of some recent developments in evolutionary theory:

The basic idea is that there have been some interesting empirical discoveries, as well as the articulation of some new concepts, subsequently to the Modern Synthesis, that one needs to explicitly integrate with the standard ideas about natural selection, common descent, population genetics and statistical genetics (nowadays known as evolutionary quantitative genetics). Some of these empirical discoveries include (but are not limited to) the existence of molecular buffering systems (like the so-called heat shock response) that may act as capacitors (i.e., facilitators) of bursts of phenotypic evolution, and the increasing evidence of the role of epigenetic (i.e., non-genetic) inheritance systems (this has nothing to do with Lamarckism, by the way). Some of the new concepts that have arisen since the MS include (but again are not limited to) the idea of evolvability (that different lineages have different propensities to evolve novel structures or functions), complexity theory (which opens the possibility of natural sources of organic complexity other than natural selection), and accommodation (a developmental process that may facilitate the coordinated appearance of complex traits in short evolutionary periods).

It’s interesting that there is so much public access to what is essentially a small private conference (via Pharyngula).