The best of all possible coexistence
Zliobaite Indre; Fortelius Mikael; Myrdal Peter
The writings of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) provide a window on early evolutionary thinking of a kind interestingly different from the roots of modern evolutionary theory as it emerged in the years following the French Revolution. Here we relate aspects of Leibniz’s thinking to methods of modern palaeoecology and show that, despite a different terminology and a different hierarchic focus, Leibniz emerges as a strikingly modern theoretician, who viewed the living world as dynamic and capable of adaptive change. The coexistence approach of palaeoecological reconstruction, developed by Volker Mosbrugger and collaborators,
with its core assumption of harmoniously co-adapted communities with strong historical legacy, represents, in a positive sense, a more Leibnizian view than functionally based and theoretically history-free approaches, such as ecometrics. Recalling Leibniz’s thinking helps to highlight how palaeoecological reconstruction is about much more than reliably establishing the ecological and climatic situation of a given fossil locality.While reliable reconstructions of past conditions are certainly of great value in research, it is arguably the need to think deeply about how the living world really works that keeps palaeoecological reconstruction such a long-running and central aspect of evolutionary science. And while we struggle to understand the coexistence
and dynamic interaction of endless levels of living agents of the living world, simultaneously large and small, global and local, the coexistence approach of palaeoecological reconstruction remains both an outstandingly operational method and part of a philosophical tradition reaching back to the very earliest evolutionary thinking.
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