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Molecular Evolution

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The Philosophy of Biology

Part of the book series: History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences ((HPTL,volume 1))

Abstract

Molecular evolution emerged as a new hybrid discipline in the 1960s. Since then the study of the evolution of proteins, RNA, and DNA has profoundly altered the study of evolutionary biology. Any evolutionary biologist who witnessed the rise of molecular evolution can attest to this change. Philosophical analysis, however, allows us to sharpen our understanding of the nature of that change and in doing so appreciate that molecular evolution has split the domain of evolutionary phenomena, diversified the leading causes of evolutionary change, and produced a profound methodological reversal with regard to the testing of evolutionary hypotheses. In a post-genomic era, biology educators face a challenge of explaining evolution at both the molecular and organismal level. Philosophical analysis can clarify what makes these distinct but complementary approaches to evolution, while biologists themselves seek ways to integrate the molecular and organismal in evolutionary biology.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The meanings of panselectionism will be explicated later in this essay. I believe that Kimura understood it to refer to the claim that natural selection is the most important factor in evolution. Panselectionism is broader than adaptationism because it encompasses all forms of selection, not just those that produce adaptations.

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Acknowledgement

I am grateful for the very useful commentary provided by this collection’s editor and reviewers, as well as, the detailed input and collaboration of Roberta Millstein.

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Correspondence to Michael R. Dietrich .

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Dietrich, M.R. (2013). Molecular Evolution. In: Kampourakis, K. (eds) The Philosophy of Biology. History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences, vol 1. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6537-5_12

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