Exploring the Implications of Biological Convergence for a Deeper Understanding of Life and its History
Evolutionary convergence describes the phenomena that occur when unrelated organisms evolve similar adaptations to similar environmental or selective pressures, arriving there by very different routes. Hundreds of examples of convergence have been documented (see, for example, http://mapoflife.org/). Many technical questions arise in this work – not least being able to distinguish, in any specific example, convergent evolution from other evolutionary processes like secondary loss, or among different kinds of convergence such as parallelisms. However, enough has been learned in recent years to make it worth raising again the broader questions of what the fact of convergence (when it is a fact) implies about the nature and processes of life.
With this initiative the John Templeton Foundation is launching a $5 million initiative which invites proposals for up to three years* supporting research on the significance of biological convergence for a better understanding of the living world. This would include (for example) philosophical investigation of some aspect of convergence, of the phenomenon itself in light of current models of biological process, or investigation of the history of its study with an eye toward clarification of the concept, its use, and meanings. Alternatively you may wish to propose empirical, synthetic, or simulation studies, or pilots for larger-scale empirical projects. Applicants may propose projects involving convergent evolution at any “level” (chemical, organ etc). However, we encourage use of biological contexts generally accepted as true examples of convergence, or which you are confident you can demonstrate to be so, since research on its meanings is likely to be sufficiently contentious without this added concern. In general we recommend requests no larger than $200,000 for conceptual and pilot projects. Most empirical projects will be under $1 million. However, we welcome conversations concerning possible exceptions.
We are particularly interested in research and scholarship that has the potential of offering insight into one or more of the following questions:
*For grants made outside the US, or otherwise under expenditure responsibility, the maximum grant length is 33 months.