The NY Times has pulled out all the stops today and has dedicated their entire science section to the subject of evolution. They’ve got pieces by some of the best science journalists around, like Carl Zimmer, Cornelia Dean (although in this case, it’s a lot of nattering on about how the soul fits into evolution—not recommended), and Natalie Angier, and they’ve also drafted a few scientists. There’s a video of Sean Carroll summarizing evo-devo, and perhaps the most interesting article of them all is by Douglas Erwin, in which he speculates about whether the new ideas percolating throughout the science community (especially by those noisy developmental biologists) are precursors to a new revolution in our thinking about evolution. He’s non-committal so far, which is fair.
Does all this add up to a new modern synthesis? There is certainly no consensus among evolutionary biologists, but development, ecology, genetics and paleontology all provide new perspectives on how evolution operates, and how we should study it. None of these concerns provide a scintilla of hope for creationists, as scientific investigations are already providing new insights into these issues. The foundations for a paradigm shift may be in place, but it may be some time before we see whether a truly novel perspective develops or these tensions are accommodated within an expanded modern synthesis.
Or both! I expect that what will happen is that the deficiencies in the neo-Darwinian synthesis (which lacks any explanation for the evolution of form and pattern, for instance) will be gradually filled in with clear linkages to the evolution of genes, and despite the fact that it will be a bigger, bolder, stronger synthesis, everyone will say we knew it all along anyway. There will not be a threshold moment where everyone says “Wow! I am suddenly enlightened!” — there will just come a time when everyone acknowledges that all those papers from 40 years ago were pretty darned important, after all.