Mechanism, Emergence, and Miscibility: The Autonomy of Evo-Devo

  • Denis M. Walsh
Chapter
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 363)

Abstract

Evolutionary developmental biology shows us that the capacities of organisms play an indispensable role in the explanation of adaptive evolution. In particular, the goal-directed properties of organisms figure in a class of emergent teleological explanations. The role of emergent teleology has heretofore gone ­unnoticed largely because of modern biology’s methodological commitment to mechanism. I outline and defend an alternative to mechanism: explanatory emergence. According to explanatory emergence, every phenomenon has a complete mechanistic explanation, yet some phenomena also have emergent teleological explanations. Mechanistic and emergent teleological explanations of the same ­phenomena are complete, complementary and autonomous. I call this relation ‘­miscibility’. I argue that the miscibility of explanations illuminates the distinctive character of recent evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). Evo-devo offers a class of emergent explanations that advert to the unique capacities of organisms.

Keywords

Mechanistic Explanation Adaptive Evolution Emergent Property Causal Power Myosin Head 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

I wish to thank audiences in Calgary, Edmonton, Vienna and Paris. In particular, I wish to thank Marc Ereshefsky, Fermin Fulda, Jesse Hendrikse, Philippe Huneman Gerd Muller, and Jacob Stegenga for helpful discussion. The bulk of this chapter was written while I was a visiting fellow at the Konrad Lorenz Institute. I thank all at the KLI for their marvellous hospitality.

References

  1. Alexander, S. 1920. Space, time and deity. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, G.E. 2005. Mechanism, vitalism and organicism in late nineteenth and twentieth-century biology: The importance of historical context. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biology and the Biomedical Sciences 36: 261–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, P.W. 1972. More is different. Science 177: 393–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aristotle. 2007. Physics Trans. R.P Hardie and R.K. Gray. http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/physics.2.ii.html
  5. Ayala, F. 1970. Teleological explanations in evolutionary biology. Philosophy of Science 37: 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bechtel, W. 2007. Biological mechanism: Organized to maintain autonomy. In Systems biology, ed. F.C. Boogerd, F.J. Bruggeman, J.-H.S. Hofmeyer, and H.V. Westerhoff, 269–302. Amsterdam: Elsevier B.V.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bechtel, W., and A. Abrahamsen. 2005. Explanation: A mechanist alternative. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biology and Biomedical Sciences 36: 421–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bechtel, W., and R. Richardson. 1993. Discovering complexity: Decomposition and localization as strategies in scientific research. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bedau, M. 1997. Weak emergence. In Philosophical perspectives 11: Mind, causation, and world, ed. J. Tomberlin, 375–399. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  10. Bedau, M. 1998. Where’s the good in teleology? Repr. In Nature’s purposes: Analyses of function and design in biology, ed. C. Allen, M. Bekoff, and G. Lauder, 261–291. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bedau, M. 2008. Is weak emergence just in the mind? Minds and Machines 18: 443–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Broad, C.D. 1925. Mind and its world. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  13. Callebaut, W., G.B. Muller, and S.A. Newman. 2007. The organismic systems approach: Evo Devo and the streamlining of the naturalistic agenda. In Integrating evolution and development: From theory to practice, ed. R. Sansom and B. Brandon, 25–92. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  14. Cartwright, N. 2004. Causation: One word, many things. Philosophy of Science 71: 805–819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Craver, C. 2007. Explaining the brain: Mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davidson, D. 1967. Causal relations. Journal of Philosophy 64: 691–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dawkins, R. 1982. The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Dawkins, R. 1998. Universal Darwinism. In The philosophy of biology, ed. M. Ruse and D.L. Hull, 15–37. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Eckstein, H. 1980. Theoretical approaches to explaining violence. In Handbook of political conflict, ed. T.R. Gurr, 135–167. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gilbert, S.F., and S. Sarkar. 2000. Embracing complexity: Organicism for the 21st century. Developmental Dynamics 219: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glennan, S. 1996. Mechanisms and the nature of causation. Erkenntnis 44: 49–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Glennan, S. 2002. Rethinking mechanistic explanation. Philosophy of Science 64: 605–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goodwin, B. 1994. How the leopard changed its spots: The evolution of complexity. London: Touchstone Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hankinson, J. 2003. Cause and explanation in ancient Greek thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Humphreys, P. 1997. How properties emerge. Philosophy of Science 64: S337–S345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Huneman, P., and P. Humphreys. 2008. Dynamical emergence and computation: An introduction. Minds and Machines 18: 425–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Illingworth, J.A. 2008. Muscle structure and function. www.bmb.leeds.ac.uk/illingworth/muscle/index.htm
  28. Jackson, F., and P. Pettit. 2004. In defence of explanatory ecumenism. Repr. In Mind, morality and explanation, ed. F. Jackson, P. Pettit, and M. Smith, 163–185. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  29. Johnson, M.R. 2005. Aristotle on teleology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kauffman, S. 1970. Articulation of parts explanation in biology and the rational search for them. In Boston studies in the philosophy of science, vol. 8, eds. R.C. Buck and R.S Cohen, 257–272. Boston: Springer.Google Scholar
  31. Kauffman, S.A. 1993. The origins of order. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kauffman, S.A. 1995. At home in the universe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Kim, J. 1989. Mechanism, purpose and explanatory exclusion. In Philosophical perspectives 3: Philosophy of mind and action theory, ed. J. Tomberlin, 77–108. Atascadero: Ridgeview Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  34. Kim, J. 2006. Emergence: Core ideas and issues. Synthese 151: 547–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kirschner, M., and J. Gerhart. 2005. The plausibility of life: Resolving Darwin’s dilemma. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Kitano, H. 2004. Biological robustness. Nature Reviews Genetics 5: 826–837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lewis, F.A. 1988. Teleology and material/efficient causes in Aristotle. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 69: 54–98.Google Scholar
  38. Machamer, P., L. Darden, and C. Craver. 2000. Thinking about mechanisms. Philosophy of Science 57: 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mill, J.S. 1843. A system of logic. London: Longmans.Google Scholar
  40. Monod, J. 1971. Chance and Necessity. Trans. A. Wainhouse London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  41. Muller, G.B. 2007. Evo-devo: Extending the evolutionary synthesis. Nature Reviews Genetics 8: 943–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Muller, G.B. 2008. Evo-devo as a discipline. In Evolving pathways: Key themes in evolutionary developmental biology, ed. A. Minelli and G. Fusco, 3–29. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Nagel, T. 1977. Teleology revisited. Journal of Philosophy 76: 261–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Newman, S.A., and G.B. Muller. 2007. Genes and form. In Genes in development: Re-reading the molecular paradigm, ed. E. Neuman-Held and C. Rehman-Suter. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Newman, S.A., G. Forgacs, and G.B. Muller. 2006. Before programs: The physical origination of multi-cellular forms. International Journal of Developmental Biology 50: 289–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. O’Connor, T. 1994. Emergent properties. American Philosophical Quarterly 31: 91–104.Google Scholar
  47. O’Connor, T. 2000. Causality, mind and free will. Philosophical Perspectives 14: 105–117.Google Scholar
  48. Oyama, S. 1985. The ontogeny of information. Raleigh.: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Richardson, R., and A. Stephan. 2007. Mechanism and mechanical explanation in systems biology. In Systems biology, ed. F.C. Boogerd, F.J. Bruggeman, J.-H.S. Hofmeyer, and H.V. Westerhoff, 123–144. Amsterdam: Elsevier B.V.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rosenberg, A. 2006. Darwinian reductionism: Or how to stop worrying and love molecular biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rueger, A. 2000. Robust supervenience and emergence. Philosophy of Science 67: 466–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Salazar-Ciudad, I.S., S.A. Newman, and R.V. Sole. 2001. Phenotypic and dynamical transitions in model genetic networks. I. Emergence of patterns and genotype-phenotype relations. Evolution and Development 3: 84–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Salmon, W. 1984. Explanation and the causal structure of the world. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Schmalhausen, I.I. 1949. Factors of evolution. London: University of Chicago Press (1986).Google Scholar
  55. Silbersteen, M., and J. McGeever. 1999. The search for ontological emergence. The Philosophical Quarterly 49: 182–200.Google Scholar
  56. Sober, E. 1999. The multiple realizability argument against reductionism. Philosophy of Science 66: 542–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Strevens, M. 2004. The causal and unification approaches to explanation unified—Causally. Nous 38: 154–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Symons, J. 2008. Computational models of emergent properties. Minds and Machines 18: 475–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. True, J.R., and S.B. Carroll. 2002. Gene co-option in physiological and morphological evolution. Annual Reviews of Cell and Developmental Biology 18: 53–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Von Bertalanffy, L. 1969. General systems theory. New York: George Barziller.Google Scholar
  61. Von Dassow, G., and E. Munro. 1999. Modularity in animal development and evolution: Elements of a conceptual framework for Evo-Devo. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mole Dev Evol) 285: 307–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Walsh, D.M. 2007. Teleology. In Oxford handbook of philosophy of biology, ed. M. Ruse, 113–137. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Waters, C.K. 1996. Why the antireductionist consensus won’t survive the case of classical Mendelian genetics. Repr. In Conceptual issues in evolutionary biology. 2nd ed., ed. E. Sober, 401–418. Cambridge: MIT, 1998.Google Scholar
  64. Waters, C.K. 2008. Beyond theoretical reduction and layer-lake anti-reductionism: How DNA retooled genetics and transformed biological practice. In Oxford handbook of philosophy of biology, ed. M. Ruse, 238–262. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Webster, G., and B. Goodwin. 1996. Form and transformation: Generative and relational principles in biology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  66. West-Eberhard, M.J. 2003. Developmental plasticity and evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. West-Eberhard, M.J. 2005a. Phenotypic accommodation: Adaptive innovation due to developmental plasticity. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mole Dev Evo) 304B: 610–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. West-Eberhard, M.J. 2005b. Developmental plasticity and the origin of species differences. PNAS 102: 6543–6549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wimsatt, W. 2000. Emergence as non-aggregativity and the biases of reductionism. Foundations of Science 5: 269–297. Repr. In Re-engineering philosophy of limited beings, ed. W. Wimsatt, 274–312, 2007.Google Scholar
  70. Woodward, J. 2002. What is a mechanism: A counterfactual account. Philosophy of Science 69: S366–S377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Woodward, J. 2003. Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Wray, G.A. 2007. The evolutionary significance of cis-regulatory mutations. Nature Reviews Genetics 8: 206–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denis M. Walsh
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations