Goethe's Spirit Haunts a New Dynamic Biology

Elemente der Naturwissenschaft 113, 2020, P. 5-18 | DOI: 10.18756/edn.113.5


In his scientific studies, Goethe described living organisms as generative entities, constantly changing and redefining themselves with respect to each other and their surroundings. Here I discuss recent developments in evolutionary biology that may be of interest to Goethean scientists. In the past few years, some mainstream biologists have argued that the current evolutionary model requires updating, to allow for the inclusion of studies that do not quite fit the “modern synthesis”. The proposed “extended synthesis” includes several ideas from evolutionary developmental biology such as phenotypic plasticity, that present a more dynamic and responsive model of organisms than previously. This shift in the concept of organisms seems to converge towards a Goethean perspective and could provide a basis for valuable exchange between mainstream biologists and Goethean researchers.

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