The Conceptual Roles of Evolvability across Evolutionary Biology: Between Diversity and Unification
Em: Evolvability. A Unifying Concept in Evolutionary Biology?
Editor: The MIT Press
Biologists and philosophers have noted the diversity of interpretations of evolvability in contemporary evolutionary research. Different clusters of research identified by co-citation patterns or shared methodological orientation sometimes concentrate on distinct conceptions of evolvability. We examine five different activities where the notion of evolvability plays conceptual roles in evolutionary biological investigation: setting a research agenda, characterization, explanation, prediction, and control. Our analysis of representative examples demonstrates how different conceptual roles of evolvability are quasi-independent and yet exhibit important relationships across scientific activities. It also provides resources to detail two distinct strategies for how evolvability can help synthesize disparate areas of research and thereby potentially serve as a unifying concept in evolutionary biology.