This book is about an approach to development and evolution that pro-
vides a novel way of analyzing these two biological processes and their
interrelationships. It also allows us to bring them together quite differ-
ently, by means of the concept of a developmental system: a heteroge-
neous and causally complex mix of interacting entities and influences that
produces the life cycle of an organism. The system includes the changing
organism itself, because an organism contributes to its own future, but it
encompasses much else as well.
Although the notion of a developmental system alters our understand-
ing of development and evolution, it also has significant implications for a
multitude of broader issues, scientific and otherwise. This is because con-
temporary versions of the age-old distinctions between biology and cul-
ture, between nature and nurture, are grounded in largely unquestioned
assumptions about how the processes of development and evolution are,
or are not, conjoined.
Developmental Systems: DST, DSA, DSP?
In my earlier writings I have spoken primarily for myself, however much
I have drawn on the work of others. My later writings refer to a sometimes
shadowy band of "developmental systems theorists," and some readers
have wondered whether these constitute a school of sorts, and if so, what
its shape and extent are (not to mention "how to buy some of it and take
it home," as Barbara Herrnstein Smith [1988: 180] says in a slightly dif-
ferent context). That the question of group identity should arise has its
pleasing aspect. It seems that scholars from a variety of disciplines are
finding in developmental systems writings a fresh way of addressing a
wide range of issues and feel the need for a convenient label. Occasion-
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