Evolution by natural selection requires that organisms are evolvable. This makes evolvability, the propensity to evolve, a fundamental concept in evolutionary theory. Yet, for most of the history of evolutionary biology, evolvability was taken for granted and not itself a subject of study. Since about 1990, however, there has been a flood of research on evolvability from several perspectives, but the different interpretations and approaches that have emerged from molecular, developmental and evolutionary biology pose a challenge.
In this CAS project, we will evaluate the past 25 years of research in order to understand evolvability as one of the unifying concepts of the "extended synthesis" of evolutionary theory. We will gather researchers from different disciplines that have been instrumental in the study of evolvability to synthesize what we have learned with a special focus on the historical and philosophical context that influenced the emergence of the concept. Our goal is to unify the approaches of different research fields into a synthetic multidisciplinary research program on the potential for evolution.