Creating a ‘gestalt shift’ in evolutionary science: roles for metaphor in the conceptual landscape of the extended evolutionary synthesis (EES)

Emily Herrington, Eva Jablonka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The role of novel metaphors, analogies and figurative devices in generating new frameworks for thought and guiding new scientific discoveries has been one of Evelyn Fox Keller’s important contributions to our understanding of the development of genetics in the twentieth century. Here we explore metaphors that are used in the construction of the extended evolutionary synthesis (EES), a theoretical framework that is still very much in the making. The EES challenges mainstream gene-based, ‘Modern Synthesis’ versions of evolutionary theory and calls for a development- and organism-oriented view of heredity and evolution. We show that at the current unstable and dynamic stage of its construction, the metaphors and analogies that are put forward by advocates of the EES play an important role in defining its boundaries, scope and ambitions, while the aesthetic and ambiguous aspects of these same metaphors are used by opponents to undermine the scientific value of the EES.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-379
Number of pages20
JournalInterdisciplinary Science Reviews
Volume45
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Evolutionary thought
  • aesthetic judgment
  • ekphrasis
  • history of science
  • mental imagery
  • modern synthesis
  • rhetoric
  • thought–style

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