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‘Intermezzos’, a reflection on evolution and evolutionism in modern science

This new book is aimed at all audiences.

This new book is aimed at all audiences.

Adrià Casinos, emeritus professor at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Barcelona.

Adrià Casinos, emeritus professor at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Barcelona.

20/11/2017

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There is nothing definite in science, but despite being aware of it, many times the establishment does not want to accept it”, says Adrià Casinos, emeritus professor at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Barcelona, in his new book Intermezzos. En torno a evolución y evolucionismo (Biblioteca Buridán).

In music, an intermezzo is a short piece performed between the interludes of an opera. Like a literary comparison, the new work by Casinos reviews some of the most polemical and debated concepts in the field of evolutionary biology and creation of species, which is “the mystery of mysteries” in Charles Darwin’s words.

From biological rhythms to the evolutionary interpretation of life

With a communicative and dynamic style, aimed at all audiences, Casinos covers in the first chapter -Intermezzo 1-, the extraordinary complexity of the nature of the biological rhythm –is it slow, constant, or random?- over the great evolutionary transformations in the history of life. Reviewing the scientific debate on geographical specification, from Darwinist tradition to the original theoretical proposals by Ernst Mayr, the proposal of the author is focused on in “Intermezzo 2”.  In the third chapter, the thread is the clear confrontation between the externalist explanation of evolution –with emphasis on natural selection- and the internal perspective, which refers to limitations of ontogenetic or phylogenetic orders. Which have been the great methodological debates in the field of biogeography of the last forty years? “Intermezzo 4” is about most changing historical aspects of this discipline –from Biblical stories to the impact of Alfred Russell Wallace ideas-, including references to pioneer scientists in the development of new biogeography theories.

Living fossils, romanticism and science

On December 22, 1938 –stated in “Intermezzo 5”- the fisherman Aristea caught a unique fish in the South African coasts. This is how the evolutionary story of the coelacanth starts. This is a “living fossil” people thought to be extinguished since late Mesozoic period and which is still shocking the scientific community. Catastrophism, supercontinents, dinosaurs and massive extinctions are some of the contents in Intermezzo 6, a chapter that makes the reader think about the controversy of how birds were able to cross the known K-T Boundary.   

How did the romantic spirit impact on the scientific thinking in the 18th Century? Is Naturphilosophie a speculative and intuitive movement? While the poet Johann Wolfang von Goethe made some incursions on scientific topics, Georges Cuvier and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire indulge in a historical debate on the origins of the morphological structures, as seen in “Intermezzo 7”. Last, the last chapter covers several ideological representations on the evolutionary theory from a historical perspective, and it defines the main spaces of confrontation and debates of ideas in the western European field, according to the emeritus professor Adrià Casinos, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, and expert on biomechanics, functional morphology and history of philosophy of biology.     
 

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