Developmental systems theory (DST) expands the unit of replication from genes to whole systems of developmental resources, which DST interprets in terms of cycling developmental processes. Expansion seems required by DST's argument against privileging genes in evolutionary and developmental explanations of organic traits. DST and the expanded replicator brook no distinction between biological and cultural evolution. However, by endorsing a single expanded unit of inheritance and leaving the classical molecular notion of gene intact, DST achieves only a nominal reunification of (...) heredity and development. I argue that an alternative conceptualization of inheritance denies the classical opposition of genetics and development while avoiding the singularity inherent in the replicator concept. It also yields a new unit--the reproducer--which genuinely integrates genetic and developmental perspectives. The reproducer concept articulates the non-separability of "genetic" and "developmental" roles in units of heredity, development, and evolution. DST reformulated in terms of reproducers rather than replicators preserves an empirically interesting distinction between cultural and biological evolution. (shrink)
We develop an account of laboratory models, which have been central to the group selection controversy. We compare arguments for group selection in nature with Darwin's arguments for natural selection to argue that laboratory models provide important grounds for causal claims about selection. Biologists get information about causes and cause-effect relationships in the laboratory because of the special role their own causal agency plays there. They can also get information about patterns of effects and antecedent conditions in nature. But to (...) argue that some cause is actually responsible in nature, they require an inference from knowledge of causes in the laboratory context and of effects in the natural context. This process, cause detection, forms the core of an analogical argument for group selection. We discuss the differing roles of mathematical and laboratory models in constructing selective explanations at the group level and apply our discussion to the units of selection controversy to distinguish between the related problems of cause determination and evaluation of evidence. Because laboratory models are at the intersection of the two problems, their study is crucial for framing a coherent theory of explanation for evolutionary biology. (shrink)
Biological reproduction is a material process of intertwined, recursive propagule generation and development, assuming that development produces simple life cycles. Most organisms, however, have more or less complex life cycles. Here, I attempt to reconcile recent articulations of a reproducer account with traditional approaches to complex life cycles by generalizing genetic demarcation criteria for life cycle generations in terms of the “scaffolded” development of hybrid reproducers. I argue that scaffolding provides a general method for identifying developmental bottlenecks and suggests in (...) turn a new way of understanding developmental reaction norms. (shrink)
Exact sciences are described as sciences whose theories are formalized. These are contrasted to inexact sciences, whose theories are not formalized. Formalization is described as a broader category than mathematization, involving any form/content distinction allowing forms, e.g., as represented in theoretical models, to be studied independently of the empirical content of a subject-matter domain. Exactness is a practice depending on the use of theories to control subject-matter domains and to align theoretical with empirical models and not merely a state of (...) a science. Inexact biological sciences tolerate a degree of “mismatch” between theoretical and empirical models and concepts. Three illustrations from biological sciences are discussed in which formalization is achieved by various means: Mendelism, Weismannism, and Darwinism. Frege’s idea of a “conceptual notation” is used to further characterize the notion of a form/content distinction. (shrink)
What gets integrated in integrative scientific practices has been a topic of much discussion. Traditional views focus on theories and explanations, with ideas of reduction and unification dominating the conversation. More recent ideas focus on disciplines, fields, or specialties; models, mechanisms, or methods; phenomena, problems. How integration works looks different on each of these views since the objects of integration are ontologically and epistemically various: statements, boundary conditions, practices, protocols, methods, variables, parameters, domains, laboratories, and questions all have their own (...) structures, functions and logics. I focus on one particular kind of scientific practice, integration of “approaches” in the context of a research system operating on a special kind of “platform.” Rather than trace a network of interactions among people, practices, and theoretical entities to be integrated, in this essay I focus on the work of a single investigator, David Wake. I describe Wake’s practice of integrative evolutionary biology and how his integration of approaches among biological specialties worked in tandem with his development of the salamanders as a model taxon, which he used as a platform to solve, re-work and update problems that would not have been solved so well by non-integrative approaches. The larger goal of the project to which this paper contributes is a counter-narrative to the story of 20th century life sciences as the rise and march of the model organisms and decline of natural history. (shrink)
Accounts of the relation between theories and models in biology concentrate on mathematical models. In this paper I consider the dual role of models as representations of natural systems and as a material basis for theorizing. In order to explicate the dual role, I develop the concept of a remnant model, a material entity made from parts of the natural system(s) under study. I present a case study of an important but neglected naturalist, Joseph Grinnell, to illustrate the extent to (...) which mundane practices in a museum setting constitute theorizing. I speculate that historical and sociological analyses of institutions can play a specific role in the philosophical analysis of model-building strategies. (shrink)
Propositions alone are not constitutive of science. But is the "non-propositional" side of science theoretically superfluous: must philosophy of science consider it in order to adequately account for science? I explore the boundary between the propositional and non-propositional sides of biological theory, drawing on three cases: Grinnell's remnant models of faunas, Wright's path analysis, and Weismannism's role in the generalization of evolutionary theory. I propose a picture of material model-building in biology in which manipulated systems of material objects function as (...) theoretical models. In each of the cases, material systems such as diagrams play important generative as well as presentational roles. (shrink)
Scientists use a variety of modes of representation in their work, but philosophers have studied mainly sentences expressing propositions. I ask whether diagrams are mere conveniences in expressing propositions or whether they are a distinct, ineliminable mode of representation in scientific texts. The case of path analysis, a statistical method for quantitatively assessing the relative degree of causal determination of variation as expressed in a causal path diagram, is discussed. Path analysis presents a worst case for arguments against eliminability since (...) path diagrams are usually presumed to be mathematically or logically “equivalent” in an important sense to sets of linear path equations. I argue that path diagrams are strongly generative, i.e., that they add analytical power to path analysis beyond what is supplied by linear equations, and therefore that they are ineliminable in a strong scientific sense. (shrink)
We argue that ‘locality’, perhaps the most mundane term in ecology, holds a basic ambiguity: two concepts of space—nomothetic and idiographic—which are both necessary for a rigorous resurvey to “the same” locality in the field, are committed to different practices with no common measurement. A case study unfolds the failure of the standard assumption that an exogenous grid of longitude and latitude, as fine‐grained as one wishes, suffices for revisiting a species locality. We briefly suggest a scale‐dependent “resolution” for this (...) replication problem, since it has no general, rational solution. *Received January 2008; revised April 2009. †To contact the authors, please write to: Ayelet Shavit, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Tel‐Hai Academic College, Upper Galilee, 12210 Israel; e‐mail: [email protected] . James Griesemer, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616; e‐mail: [email protected] . Biodiversity is largely a matter of real estate. And, as with other real estate, location is everything. (Kiester at el. 1996 ). (shrink)
I characterize Wimsatt’s approach to philosophy of science as philosophy for science and then briefly consider a theme emerging from his work that informs just one of the many current developments in philosophy of biology that he inspired: scaffolding as a problem of mechanistic explanation for functionalists.
In a previous study, using experimental metapopulations of the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, we investigated phase III of Wright's shifting balance process (Wade and Griesemer 1998). We experimentally modeled migration of varying amounts from demes of high mean fitness into demes of lower mean fitness (as in Wright's characterization of phase III) as well as the reciprocal (the opposite of phase III). We estimated the meta-populational heritability for this level of selection by regression of offspring deme means on the weighted (...) parental deme means.Here we develop a Punnett Square representation of the inheritance of the group mean to place our empirical findings in a conceptual context similar to Mendelian inheritance of individual traits. The comparison of Punnett Squares for individual and group inheritance shows how the latter concept can be rigorously defined and extended despite the lack of explicitly formulated, simple Mendelian laws of inheritance at the group level. Whereas Wright's phase III combines both interdemic selection and meta-populational inheritance, our formulation separates the issue of meta-populational heritability from that of interdemic selection. We use this conceptual context to discuss the controversies over the levels of selection and the units of inheritance. (shrink)
The themes, problems and challenges of developmental systems theory as described in Cycles of Contingency are discussed. We argue in favor of a robust approach to philosophical and scientific problems of extended heredity and the integration of behavior, development, inheritance, and evolution. Problems with Sterelny's proposal to evaluate inheritance systems using his `Hoyle criteria' are discussed and critically evaluated. Additional support for a developmental systems perspective is sought in evolutionary studies of performance and behavior modulation of fitness.
The concept of a presentation of a theory is often introduced in discussions of the "semantic view" of theories to characterize the way in which models for a theory are specified. Presentations are most often thought of as definitions of the kinds of systems represented in the models. It is argued that the concept of a presentation can be widened to permit consideration of the links between epistemologically motivated accounts of theory structure and some metaphysically motivated accounts of the growth (...) of scientific knowledge. Conceptual maps are discussed as a possible elaboration of presentations which support Hull's metaphysical conception of theories as conceptual historical entities. (shrink)
Some central ideas associated with developmental systems theory are outlined for non-specialists. These ideas concern the nature of biological development, the alleged distinction between “genetic” and “environmental” traits, the relations between organism and environment, and evolutionary processes. I also discuss some criticisms of the DST approach.
We track and analyze the re-situation of scientific knowledge in the field of human population genomics ancestry studies. We understand re-situation as a process of accommodating the direct or indirect transfer of objects of knowledge from one site/situation to other sites/situations. Our take on the concept borrows from Mary S. Morgan’s work on facts traveling while expanding it to include other objects of knowledge such as models, data, software, findings, and visualizations. We structure a specific case study by tracking the (...) re-situation of these objects between three research projects studying human population diversity reported in three articles in Science, Genome Research and PLoS Genetics between 2002 and 2005. We characterize these three engagements as a unit of analysis, a “skirmish,” in order to compare: the divergence of interests in how life-scientists answer similar research questions and to track the challenging transformation of workflows in research laboratories as these scientific objects are re-situated individually or in bundles. Our analysis of the case study shows that an accurate understanding of re-situation requires tracking the whole bundle of objects in a project because they interact in particular key ways. The absence or dismissal of these interactions opens the door to unforeseen trade-offs, misunderstandings and misrepresentations about research design and workflow and what these say about the questions asked and the findings produced. (shrink)
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the biologist Joseph Grinnell made a distinction between science and sentiment for producing fact-based generalizations on how to conserve biodiversity. We are inspired by Grinnellian science, which successfully produced a century-long impact on studying and conserving biodiversity that runs orthogonal to some familiar philosophical distinctions such as fact versus value, emotion versus reason and basic versus applied science. According to Grinnell, unlike sentiment-based generalizations, a fact-based generalization traces its diverse commitments and thus becomes (...) tractable for its audience. We argue that foregrounding tractability better explains Grinnell’s practice in the context of his time as well as in the context of current discourse among scientists over the political “biases” of biodiversity research and its problem of “reproducibility.”. (shrink)
This paper characterizes the role of the experimenter in causal explanations of laboratory phenomena. Causal explanation rests on appeals to the experimenter's efficacy as a causal agent. I contrast "demographic" and "genetic" explanations of stochastic outcomes in a set of competition experiments in ecology. The demographic view ascribes causes to the experimenter's agency in setting up the experiment and to events within the experimental set-up. The genetic view ascribes causes to an unrecognized effect of the experimenter's sampling process prior to (...) the experimental set-up. (shrink)