The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought: Roots of Evo-Devo

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $41.84
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 59%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (6) from $41.84   
  • New (2) from $90.97   
  • Used (4) from $41.84   


In this book Ron Amundson examines 200 years of scientific views on the evolution development relationship from the perspective of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). This new perspective challenges several popular views about the history of evolutionary thought by claiming that many earlier authors made history come out right for the Evolutionary Synthesis.

The book starts with a revised history of nineteenth-century evolutionary thought. It then investigates how development became irrelevant to evolution with the Evolutionary Synthesis. It concludes with an examination of the contrasts that persist between mainstream evolutionary theory and evo-devo.

This book will appeal to students and professionals in the philosophy of science and the philosophy and history of biology.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is revisionist history at its best. The death of Ernst Mayr, the last surviving father of the modern synthesis, makes the publication of this important book all the more timely.... Highly recommended...."

"The Changing Role of the Embryo paints a fascinating portrait of the ways in which histories of biology have served as philosophical weapons legitimizing specific forms of biological theory and practice...Philosophers of biology, historians of biology, and practicing biologists with an interest in history, should all read this book...."
—Erika Lorraine Milam, Clemson University, Journal of the History of Biology

"... As The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought demonstrates, understanding the deep epistemological and conceptual foundations of current research practices is clearly valuable. Amundson has taken an important first step, focusing largely on conceptual and ontological incompatibilities between scientific theories, thus suggesting some order among the ruins."

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Ron Amundson is Professor of Philosophy, University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii

1 Introduction

1.1 Evo-Devo as New and Old Science 1

1.2 Evo-Devo and the Windfall of the 1990s 4

1.3 How I Came to Write this Book 9

1.4 Historical Format 11

1.5 Epistemological Concepts in Historical Context 14

1.5.1 Inductivist Caution 14

1.5.2 Idealism 16

1.5.3 Two Essentialisms 18

1.6 Explanatory Relativity 20

1.7 Historical Conventions 22

1.8 Historical Precis 23

Part 1 Darwin'S Century: Beyond The Essentialism Story

2 Systematics and the Birth of the Natural System

2.1 Introduction 31

2.2 The Discovery of Species Fixism 34

2.3 Linnaeus and His Contemporaries 39

2.4 French Systems: Jussieu and Cuvier 41

2.5 British Systems and the Growth of Taxonomic Realism 45

2.6 Review of Species Fixism, Essentialism, and Real Groups 50

3 The Origins of Morphology, the Science of Form

3.1 Morphology and Natural Theology 53

3.2 Form as a Topic of Study 55

3.2.1 Goethe 55

3.2.2 The Great Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate 56

3.2.3 Von Baer and Development 58

3.2.4 The Study of Form Summarized 61

3.3 Natural Theologians on Unity of Type 62

3.3.1 William Paley 63

3.3.2 William Buckland 64

3.3.3 Charles Bell 64

3.3.4 William Whewell 65

3.3.5 Peter Mark Roget 66

3.4 The Structural Turn 67

3.4.1 Martin Barry 68

3.4.2 William Carpenter 70

3.4.3 Rudolph Leuckart 72

3.5 What is Natural Theology? 73

4 Owen and Darwin, The Archetype and the Ancestor

4.1 Introduction 76

4.2 Typology Defined: Kinds of Types 78

4.3 Owen Builds the Archetype 82

4.4 Owen on Species Origins 88

4.5 Anti-Adaptationism 93

4.6 Darwin's use of Morphological Types 96

4.7 Misunderstanding Darwin on Owen 99

4.8 Darwin onUnity of Type 102

4.9 A Structuralist Evolutionary Theory? 103

4.10 How Darwin Differed 104

5 Evolutionary Morphology: The First Generation of Evolutionists

5.1 The Program of Evolutionary Morphology 107

5.2 Evolutionary Morphology as Non-Darwinian and as Darwinian 108

5.3 The Biogenetic Law 112

5.4 Early Origins in Phylogeny and Ontogeny 114

5.5 Explaining Form 118

5.6 The Struggles of Evolutionary Morphology 121

5.7 The Conflict between Adaptation and Structure 125

6 Interlude

6.1 Two Narratives of the History of Evolutionary Biology 130

6.2 One Theory or Two? 130

6.3 Grounds for Species Fixism 131

6.4 Darwin's other Primary Achievement: The Tree of Life 132

6.5 The Significance of Gappiness 134

6.6 And Forward 136

Part 2 Neo-Darwin's Century: Explaining The Absence And The Reappearance Of Development In Evolutionary Thought

7 The Invention of Heredity

7.1 Truisms of Heredity 139

7.2 Epigenetic Origins of Heredity 140

7.3 Epigenetic Heredity During the Nineteenth Century 143

7.3.1 Martin Barry 143

7.3.2 Charles Darwin 144

7.3.3 August Weismann 144

7.4 The Cleavage between Heredity and Development 148

7.5 Reinforcing the Dichotomy: Rewriting Weismann and Johannsen 152

7.6 Broad and Narrow Heredity 155

8 Basics of the Evolutionary Synthesis

8.1 A Long Story Made Short 159

8.2 The Struggles of Natural Selection 160

8.3 Problems in Characterizing the Evolutionary Synthesis 161

8.4 The Evolutionary Synthesis Characterized 163

8.5 By-Products of the Core of Synthesis Thought 166

8.5.1 Systematics 166

8.5.2 Phylogeny 167

8.5.3 Mechanisms 167

9 Structuralist Reactions to the Synthesis

9.1 Experimental Embryology and the Synthesis 169

9.2 The Program of Experimental Embryology 170

9.3 The Embryological Critique of the Synthesis 175

9.3.1 Critique 1: The Causal Completeness Principle 175

9.3.2 Critique 2: The Developmental Paradox 177

9.3.3 Critique 3: Fundamental versus Superficial Characters 180

9.3.4 Cytoplasmic Inheritance versus Darwinian Extrapolation 185

9.4 Points of Contact among Developmental and Genetic Biologists, and Synthesis Evolutionists 189

9.4.1 Sewall Wright 190

9.4.2 Oxford Morphology 191

9.4.3 Waddington and Schmalhausen 193

9.4.4 Richard Goldschmidt 195

9.5 Historical Reflection: Explanatory Goals 196

9.5.1 Form-Theoretic Evolutionary Theory 196

9.5.2 Change-Theoretic Evolutionary Theory 197

10 The Synthesis Matures

10.1 The Darwin Centennial Celebration 198

10.2 Uses of Dichotomies 201

10.3 Proximate versus Ultimate: Context 203

10.4 Population Thinking versus Typological Thinking: Context 204

10.5 Ernst Mayr as a Strcturalist? 209

10.6 The Enlarged Quiver of Dichotomies 211

11 Recent Debates and the Continuing Tension

11.1 Diversity versus Commonality: Starting with Genes 213

11.2 The Four Dichotomies Defend the Synthesis 218

11.2.1 Maynard Smith: The Germ Line-Soma Critique 218

11.2.2 Hamburger and Wallace: The Typological and Germ Line-Soma Critiques 219

11.2.3 Mayr: The Proximate-Ultimate and Genotype-Phenotype Critiques 222

11.2.4 Refutation by Slogan? 224

11.3 Populations, Ontogenies, and Ontologies 225

11.4 Adaptationist Ontology: How the Focus on Diversity Affects Ontology 226

11.5 Structuralist Ontology: Commonality and Developmental Types 229

11.6 Concepts of Homology 238

11.6.1 The Historical Concept of Homology 238

11.6.2 The Developmental Concept of Homology 240

11.7 A Philosophical Ontology of Evo-Devo 244

11.8 A Newer Synthesis? 250

References 259

Index 275

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)