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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Jeremy Kendal

Laland, K.N., Odling-Smee, J., Feldman, M.W. & Kendal, J.R. (2008). Conceptual Barriers to Progress Within Evolutionary Biology. Foundations of Science
  • Publication type: Journal Article
  • Keywords: niche construction, evolutionary biology, ecological inheritance, ecosystem

Author(s) from Durham


In spite of its success, Neo-Darwinism is faced with major conceptual barriers to further
progress, deriving directly from its metaphysical foundations. Most importantly, neo-
Darwinism fails to recognize a fundamental cause of evolutionary change, “niche
construction”. This failure restricts the generality of evolutionary theory, and introduces
inaccuracies. It also hinders the integration of evolutionary biology with neighbouring
disciplines, including ecosystem ecology, developmental biology, and the human
sciences. Ecology is forced to become a divided discipline, developmental biology is
stubbornly difficult to reconcile with evolutionary theory, and the majority of biologists
and social scientists are still unhappy with evolutionary accounts of human behaviour.
The incorporation of niche construction as both a cause and a product of evolution
removes these disciplinary boundaries while greatly generalizing the explanatory power
of evolutionary theory.