Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 20, Issue 2–3, pp 427–451 | Cite as

The Dilemma of Dominance

  • Douglas AllchinEmail author


The concept of dominance poses several dilemmas. First, while entrenched in genetics education, the metaphor of dominance promotes several misconceptions and misleading cultural perspectives. Second, the metaphors of power, prevalence and competition extend into science, shaping assumptions and default concepts. Third, because genetic causality is complex, the simplified concepts of dominance found in practice are highly contingent or inconsistent. The conceptual problems are illustrated in the history of studies on the evolution of dominance. Conceptual clarity may be fostered, I claim, by viewing diploid organisms as diphenic and by framing genetic causality modestly through individual alleles and their corresponding haplophenotypes.


Dominance Dominant Evolution of dominance Mendelian genetics Metaphor Recessive 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Minnesota Center for the Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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