Evolutionary developmental biology: philosophical issues

In T. Heams, Philippe Huneman, L. Lecointre & Michael Silberstein (eds.), Handbook of Evolutionary Thinking in the Sciences. Berlin: Springer. pp. 265-283 (2015)
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Evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo) is a loose conglomeration of research programs in the life sciences with two main axes: (a) the evolution of development, or inquiry into the pattern and processes of how ontogeny varies and changes over time; and, (b) the developmental basis of evolution, or inquiry into the causal impact of ontogenetic processes on evolutionary trajectories—both in terms of constraint and facilitation. Philosophical issues are found along both axes surrounding concepts such as evolvability, novelty, and modularity. The developmental basis of evolution has garnered much attention because it speaks to the possibility of revising a standard construal of evolutionary theory, but the evolution of development harbors its own conceptual questions. This article addresses the heterogeneity of Evo-devo’s conglomerate structure (including disagreements over its individuation), as well as the concepts and controversies of philosophical interest pertaining to the evolution of development and the developmental basis of evolution. Future research will benefit from a shift away from global theorizing toward the scientific practices of Evo-devo.



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Alan Love
University of Minnesota

Citations of this work

Typology and Natural Kinds in Evo-Devo.Ingo Brigandt - 2021 - In Laura Nuño De La Rosa & Gerd Müller (eds.), Evolutionary Developmental Biology: A Reference Guide. Cham: Springer. pp. 483-493.
Chances and Propensities in Evo-Devo.Laura Nuño de la Rosa & Cristina Villegas - 2022 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):509-533.
Development and microbiology.Aja Watkins - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (4):1-30.
Explanation in Evo-Devo.Marie I. Kaiser - 2021 - In L. N. de la Rosa & G. B. Müller (eds.), Evolutionary Developmental Biology - A Reference Guide. Cham: Springer.

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