What is Evo-Devo?
Perhaps no one explains it better and faster than Tim Blais of A Capella Science. Watch this amazing 4 minute music video, Evo-Devo. Evo-devo is how life advanced from single cells to people. Evo-devo biology tells us that evolutionary and developmental processes are both fundamental to living systems, yet they have two different adaptive purposes and dynamics. Evolutionary processes create new information, and developmental ones conserve old information. Evolutionary processes are bottom-up and divergent, developmental processes are top-down and convergent. Evolutionary processes explore and create variety, developmental processes constrain and enforce conformity. Both are key to the life cycle of any autopoetic (self-replicating and creative) system under selection. Adaptive networks, and network science, are at the center of evo-devo processes. It is the self-organizing exploratory and regulatory networks of genes, gene products, switches, circuits, modules, phenotypes, and species that create life's stunning variety, complexity, persistence, and network adaptiveness. Evo-devo network models help us understand why life, which is best understood as a single autopoetic and interdependent genetic regulatory network, is so amazingly diverse, complex, hormetic (getting stronger under right-sized stress), persistent (3.5 Billion years!), and adaptive. The better we understand evo-devo processes in life, the better we can protect and guide them in all other adaptive autopoetic systems, including human ideas, language, behaviors, laws, institutions, organizations, technologies, and even, it now appears, our universe itself.
Our Latest Book
Our latest edited volume of EDU-related research Evolution, Development and Complexity, came out in the Springer Complexity Series in 2019. This book is our best testament yet to the great value of what we call Biology-Inspired Complexity Science & Philosophy, the central theme of our EDU community. See the Satellite website for abstracts. To be considered for future publications, contact lead editor Georgi Georgiev with an abstract of your own related work.
Our most recent academic meeting was Evolution, Development, and Complexity 2017. It was a full-day satellite conference on 20 Sept 2017, at the Conference on Complex Systems 2017, 17-22 Sept in Cancun, Mexico. Thanks to all the scientists, researchers, and complex systems scholars who attended.
Win or contribute to the High Energy Astrobiology Prize Research, criticize, vote, propose ideas, or donate to test the existence of extraterrestrial life in binary stars (stellivore hypothesis).
Visit and comment at our EDU blog
Select Member PublicationsClément Vidal's book: The Beginning and the End: The Meaning of Life in a Cosmological Perspective, 2014, Springer.
John O. Campbell's books: Darwin Does Physics, 2015 and The Knowing Universe, 2021. A largely unnoticed scientific revolution has occurred over the past forty-five years. The Darwinian paradigm has been successfully applied to numerous fields outside of biology: including the social and behavioral sciences and most recently to the physical sciences. Longstanding concepts in physics and information theory, including the free energy principle and Bayesian inference, are now being used to model how information becomes knowledge in a great variety of adaptive systems, including quantum, molecular, cellular, neural, cultural, and technological systems, and even to contemplate our universe itself as an autopoetic (evo-devo) learning system. Such autopoetic, model-centric, and selectionist approaches promise a conceptual unification of many branches of science.
The EDU Scholarly Research Community explores how our understanding of the universe as a complex system might be augmented by insights from information and computation studies, evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) biology, and hypotheses and models of quasi-evolutionary and quasi-developmental process applied at universal and subsystem scales. The major focus of our community is Biology-Inspired Complexity Science and Philosophy (BICS&P) in ten areas of universal complexity. We think this approach helps us address a few of the "missing links" in complexity research today.
The underlying paradigm for cosmology is theoretical physics. It has helped us understand much about universal space, time, energy, and matter, but does not presently connect strongly to the emergence of information, computation, life and mind.
In the neo-Darwinian paradigm, adaptive evolutionary development guides the production of ordered, complex and intelligent structures. When we consider informational algorithms in biological systems, we can distinguish evolutionary processes which are stochastic, variety-creating, divergent, and contingently adaptive and developmental processes which produce convergent and systemically statistically predictable structures and trajectories internal to the developmental cycle. Such evo and devo algorithms emerged via replication and various selection functions, depending on environment. By analogy with the evolutionary development of two genetically identical twins, a variety of cosmology models predict that two parametrically identical universes would each exhibit unpredictably separate and unique "evolutionary" variation over their lifespan, and at the same time, a broad set of predictable "developmental" shared structure, function, and emergence timelines between them. But how much of the advanced complexity we see around us is developmental? How can we explore this question of the extent of universal development, via astrobiology, simulation, and our models of context-specific and general adaptiveness?
In what other ways does our universe appear to be an evolutionary developmental system? What models suggest our universe may replicate and be selected upon in some extrauniversal environment? How do unpredictability and predictability interact in all replicating systems within our universe, from stars to chemistry to life, and what generic selection functions apply? To what extent may these intrauniversal models help us understand the way unpredictability and predictability work together in physics and cosmology, in service to universal complexity?
We are particularly interested in exploring hypotheses of universal evolutionary process (sometimes called "Universal Darwinism"), and universal developmental process (constraining and future-predictable laws, hierarchy, form, function, and life cycle) which may be operating in complex adaptive systems at all scales. We seek to better understand evolutionary and developmental processes of self-organization and adaptation at all scales, including the universal scale. If universe is a replicator within the multiverse, as preliminary models like cosmological natural selection propose, it would be expected to adaptively self-organize both its evolutionary and developmental processes, just as those processes have self-organized in living systems. Evo-devo models propose that not only is our universe in many ways evolutionary (innovative, selectionist, contingent), but it is also developmental (conservative, hierarchical, convergent), as one would expect under replication. For example, the isotropy, compartmentalization, parallelism, and far-future similarity (convergence) we find in universal complex structure and function, at the hierarchy levels of galaxies, stars, and rocky planets, and which may also include astrobiological life and intelligence, has many physical and informational parallels to the isotropy, compartmentalization, parallelism, and far-future similarity seen in biological development.
Listserves, People, Themes, Questions, Bibliography, and SIGs
For EDU notice and discussion lists, see Listserves. For current EDU community scholars and associates, please see the People page. For a list of research themes, see the Themes page. For some current research questions, see the Questions page. For a starter list of EDU-related publications by community scholars, and other publications of note, see Bibliography. For a list of primary special interest groups, see SIGs. For a list of future conference themes and proposals, see Conference Themes.
Our first international EDU conference, Oct 8-9 2008 in Paris, France. It started our community, which has steadily grown since then on our listserves. See the Conference 2008 page for EDU 2008 program, abstracts, slides, and some audio of presentations.
Do you have a respectable scientific community to discuss your more heterodox (unorthodox, provocative, exploratory) ideas in evolution, development, and complexity? Maybe you have a model or theory, or wish to discuss, critique, or design an experiment to evaluate a model or theory, that is a bit outside the mainstream? Intellectual breakthroughs don’t always fit with established traditions. We take this fact seriously in the EDU community, and offer a forum for careful, evidence-seeking discussion and critique of more creative and daring hypotheses. Evo-Devo Universe has over a hundred academically-affiliated scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, engaged in serious, courteous, open-minded, constructive, and private discussion of the frontiers of science, in our main themes of evolution, development, and complexity. Our community uses the Chatham House Rule, where scholars are free to use the information from the discussion, but are not allowed to reveal the source, without that source's permission. This encourages high-reputation scholars to engage in frank debates on controversial topics, and to express early intuitions and tentative opinions that would not otherwise be expressed in more public venues.
- To establish an evo-devo universe (EDU) research community to explore ideas, models, and questions involving evolutionary and developmental processes that may be operating in the universe as a system, which may itself exist within a more extensive cosmologic environment (the multiverse).
- To bring together select cosmologists, physicists, chemists, biologists, complexity theorists, mathematicians, systems theorists, information theorists, computer scientists, philosophers, independent scholars, and bridge-building interdisciplinarians who have all addressed dimensions of this inquiry in previous publications.
- To identify a multidisciplinary global community of scholars with interest in exploring analogies of the universe as an evolutionary and developmental system, and of the universe as complex system, and in discriminating potential evolutionary and developmental processes and their interrelationships on either universal or subsystem scales.
- To conduct a periodic inquiry, conference publication series, and open access overview of current thinking on the evolution and development of the universe as a system.
How can I participate?
There are several ways you can participate in the Evo-Devo Universe (EDU) community.
- Institutionally-affiliated academics and a limited number of independent scholars are encouraged to join the EDU-Talk discussion list, a moderated private list for scholars interested in exploring and critiquing models, hypotheses, questions, and speculations relating to the evolution and development of the universe and its subsystems. Your membership on the list can be public or private, as you prefer. Please complete the brief EDU-Talk subscription form.
- Consider coming to and presenting at one of our One-Day Conferences, typically co-located with other academic conferences, where you will meet and can build collaborations with other scholars with similar interests. You are also encouraged to start a SIG within our community on your particular subject of interest.
- If you are a researcher in physics, cosmology, chemistry, biology, philosophy, information, computation, complexity sciences or other field who is considering some of our Research questions, we will be glad to welcome you as a publicly listed member of the community, on our People page.
- If you are interested in doing bibliographic research, scholar recruiting, or community support, we will be glad to welcome you as an Associate member of the community. Perhaps you would like to help us build our bibliography and global scholar network related to EDU themes. We also welcome bibliographic and scholar recruitment suggestions.
- Anyone may join our public EDU-Notices list. This moderated, announcement-only list is low volume and will keep you abreast of EDU Community activities (conferences, publications, etc.). Members may also post notices of important events, call for papers, publications, etc. on EDU-related themes (notices subject to moderator approval) .
- We greatly appreciate one-time or ongoing financial support and any help or advice related to fundraising for the project. Individual or institutional donations may be made to ASF, the nonprofit sponsoring this community, by PayPal or check.
- We are grateful for initial funding of the project by The Complex Systems Institute, Paris (ISC-PIF)