Trojan Horses and Black Queens: ‘causal core’ explanations in microbiome research

Abstract

Lynch et al., in an article in this issue, argue that an entire microbiome is rarely, if ever, the right target of analysis for causal explanations in microbiome research. They argue, using interventionist criteria of proportionality, specificity and stability, for restricting causal claims to the smallest subset of microbes—a causal core—that generate the effect of interest. A further question remains: what kind of interactions generate a consortium of microbes that can operate as causal agents in this manner? Here I introduce two possible kinds of such consortia: ‘trojan horses’ and ‘syntrophic’ individuals.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The historical details used in this example come from Baird and Arroyo (2013).

  2. 2.

    This coining and account of individuals has been developed in conjunction with my coauthor and collaborator Leonardo Bich from the University of the Basque Country.

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Correspondence to Derek Skillings.

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Skillings, D. Trojan Horses and Black Queens: ‘causal core’ explanations in microbiome research. Biol Philos 34, 60 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-019-9718-7

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Keywords

  • Interventionist causation
  • Syntrophy
  • Proportionality
  • Microbiome
  • Health
  • Disease