Jeffrey Peterson on the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis & Niche Construction

Niche Construction: Biosemiotics and Recursivity in Evolution

By Jeffrey Peterson


The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) has well-known antecedents in evolutionary biology. For instance, in the mid-20th Century Conrad Waddington anticipated the salience of developmental bias and epigenetic inheritance as evolutionary processes in the EES. Aspects of niche construction theory, another core process within the EES, was articulated decades ago by Richard Lewontin. However, the theoretical contributions of anthropologists regarding niche construction are lesser known. Gregory Bateson and Kinji Imanishi make particularly salient corrections to neo-Darwinian natural selection that are now foundational within the EES, such as the mutual mutability of organism-environment relations and the concomitant implications for selection within such dynamic ecological systems. Here, I further explore the potential contribution of Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotic theory toward elucidating the mechanisms of information flow in John Odling-Smee and colleagues’ formalized conception of niche construction. Drawing on the work of these theorists, I connect them with the underlying process of reciprocal causation in niche construction, which envisions co-responding proximate and ultimate evolutionary patterns. I argue that recognizing these integrated processes as biosemiotically recursive patterns will strengthen the conceptual and explanatory value of niche construction.

Monday, March 30 2020, at 2:30PM; UCHI Conference Room, Babbidge Library, Fourth Floor.

Co-Sponsored by UConn Anthropology Department; Philosophy Department; Expression, Communication, and the Origins of Meaning (ECOM) Research Group; and James Barnett Endowment for Humanistic Anthropology.


Peterson HeadshotJeffrey Peterson
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Jeffrey Peterson is a postdoctoral fellow in the Anthropology Department at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on the wide-ranging manifestations of long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) social behavior in anthropogenic landscapes. He is interested in how social interactions facilitate and maintain relationships among the macaques, as well as between macaques and humans. His research has been supported by the National Geographic Society and the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.