Evolution′s Eye

A Systems View of the Biology-Culture Divide

Evolution′s Eye

Science and Cultural Theory

More about this series

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 6 figures Published: May 2000

Author: Susan Oyama

Science and Technology Studies > Philosophy of Science, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

In recent decades, Susan Oyama and her colleagues in the burgeoning field of developmental systems theory have rejected the determinism inherent in the nature/nurture debate, arguing that behavior cannot be reduced to distinct biological or environmental causes. In Evolution’s Eye Oyama elaborates on her pioneering work on developmental systems by spelling out that work’s implications for the fields of evolutionary theory, developmental and social psychology, feminism, and epistemology. Her approach profoundly alters our understanding of the biological processes of development and evolution and the interrelationships between them.
While acknowledging that, in an uncertain world, it is easy to “blame it on the genes,” Oyama claims that the renewed trend toward genetic determinism colors the way we think about everything from human evolution to sexual orientation and personal responsibility. She presents instead a view that focuses on how a wide variety of developmental factors interact in the multileveled developmental systems that give rise to organisms. Shifting attention away from genes and the environment as causes for behavior, she convincingly shows the benefits that come from thinking about life processes in terms of developmental systems that produce, sustain, and change living beings over both developmental and evolutionary time.
Providing a genuine alternative to genetic and environmental determinism, as well as to unsuccessful compromises with which others have tried to replace them, Evolution’s Eye will fascinate students and scholars who work in the fields of evolution, psychology, human biology, and philosophy of science. Feminists and others who seek a more complex view of human nature will find her work especially congenial.


“[A] subtle . . . study of recent concepts in biology and social science. . . . [Oyama] wants to think—and to get us to think—about how culture, environment and genetic programming are constantly ‘talking to’ one another, and how it’s their interaction that creates us. It’s a worthy goal, and one her book should advance.” — Publishers Weekly

“[Oyama] offer[s] a wealth of thinking and argument that takes us beyond damaging dichotomies and views of organisms, to a fuller understanding of behavioral transmission and how we might better go about studying it.” — T. M. Freeberg , Ethology

“Oyama argues elegantly and provides myriad examples to illustrate the lack of an appreciation for the reciprocal relationship that exists between genetics and the environment. . . . Recommended for graduate students, researchers, and faculty seeking a fresh approach to this issue.” — M. Pilati , Choice

"Evolution's Eye is a book that should be read and reread by every biologist interested in the conceptual basis of her discipline. . . . [A] brilliant and eloquently written (Oyama's hallmark) continuation of the promising project that was initiated with [Ontogeny of Information]." — Pieter Lemmens , Acta Biotheoretica

"Evolution's Eye makes a number of . . . concepts widely available for inspection, and as such is a most welcome contribution to the literature on evolution and development." — Jason Scott Robert , Biology and Philosophy

"Oyama's proposal of developmental systems as the main agents of evolutionary process is worthy of reflection and further scrutiny." — Boguslaw Pawlowski, Journal of Biosocial Science

“Oyama writes elegantly and from a deep intellectual base. This alternative view to the dominant genetic determinism will be of interest to all who seek a more complex view of human nature. It is an excellent book, beautifully composed.” — Katherine Nelson, City University of New York

“Susan Oyama's Ontogeny of Information provided a navigational chart for researchers seeking to avoid the shoals of the nature-nurture dichotomy. Here, in Evolution's Eye, she good-humoredly unmasks the rhetorical stratagems of reflexive genecentrism, while continuing to strengthen the case for the integrative, multifocal approach of developmental systems theory.” — Helen E. Longino, University of Minnesota

“To think of nature and nurture as two distinct categories is not only wrong, Susan Oyama convincingly argues, but doing so hobbles our attempts to understand the nature of development and evolution at every level. Hers is a voice that needs to be heard.” — Evelyn Fox Keller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Susan Oyama is Professor of Psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York. Her book The Ontogeny of Information is also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top


Part 1: Looking at Development and Evolution
Transmission and Construction: Levels and the Problem of Heredity

What Does the Phenocopy Copy? Originals and Fakes in Biology

Ontogeny and the Central Dogma: Do We Need the Concept of Genetic
Programming in Order to Have an Evolutionary Perspective?

Stasis, Development, and Heredity: Models of Stability and Change

The Accidental Chordate: Contingency in Developmental Systems

Part 2: Looking at Ourselves

Essentialism, Women, and War: Protesting Too Much, Protesting Too

The Conceptualization of Nature: Nature as Design

Bodies and Minds: Dualism in Evolutionary Theory

How Shall I Name Thee? The Construction of Natural Selves

Evolutionary and Developmental Formation: Politics of the Boundary




Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2472-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2436-2
Publicity material