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Perspectives in Animal Phylogeny and Evolution$
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Alessandro Minelli

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780198566205

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198566205.001.0001

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Reading the history of life

Reading the history of life

(p.1) Chapter 1 Reading the history of life
Perspectives in Animal Phylogeny and Evolution

Alessandro Minelli

Oxford University Press

Evolutionary biology is a science or change rather than a science of origins. It is indeed matter of dispute whether questions about origins (e.g., of species, adaptations, or novelties) have a fully legitimate status in science. Parallelism and convergence recurrent in evolutionary change are obstacles to phylogenetic reconstruction, but are also informative per se. Evolutionary biology has witnessed enormous progress since Darwin, but a profitable reading of the history of life is hardly possible as long as a set of impediments are still with us, such as residual progressionist views (scala naturae, morphoclines, Williston's law), and the latent finalism embodied in the notion of genetic programme and in the adultocentric perspective according to which all developmental stages, from the zygote on, are simply preparatory steps towards the generation of a reproductively active adult.

Keywords:   adultocentrism, finalism, morphoclines, origins, Williston's law

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