Thesis ID: CBB001560817

Explaining Evolutionary Innovation and Novelty: A Historical and Philosophical Study of Biological Concepts (2005)


Love, Alan Christopher (Author)

University of Pittsburgh
Lennox, James G.

Publication Date: 2005
Edition Details: Advisor: Lennox, James G.
Physical Details: 598 pp.
Language: English

Explaining evolutionary novelties (such as feathers or neural crest cells) is a central item on the research agenda of evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo). Proponents of Evo-devo have claimed that the origin of innovation and novelty constitute a distinct research problem, ignored by evolutionary theory during the latter half of the 20 th century, and that Evo-devo as a synthesis of biological disciplines is in a unique position to address this problem. In order to answer historical and philosophical questions attending these claims, two philosophical tools were developed. The first, conceptual clusters , captures the joint deployment of concepts in the offering of scientific explanations and allows for a novel definition of conceptual change. The second, problem agendas , captures the multifaceted nature of explanatory domains in biological science and their diachronic stability. The value of problem agendas as an analytical unit is illustrated through the examples of avian feather and flight origination. Historical research shows that explanations of innovation and novelty were not ignored. They were situated in disciplines such as comparative embryology, morphology, and paleontology (exemplified in the research of N.J. Berrill, D.D. Davis, and W.K. Gregory), which were overlooked because of a historiography emphasizing the relations between genetics and experimental embryology. This identified the origin of Evo-devo tools (developmental genetics) but missed the source of its problem agenda. The structure of developmental genetic explanations of innovations and novelties is compared and contrasted with those of other disciplinary approaches, past and present. Applying the tool of conceptual clusters to these explanations reveals a unique form of conceptual change over the past five decades: a change in the causal and evidential concepts appealed to in explanations. Specification of the criteria of explanatory adequacy for the problem agenda of innovation and novelty indicates that Evo-devo qua disciplinary synthesis requires more attention to the construction of integrated explanations from its constituent disciplines besides developmental genetics. A model for explanations integrating multiple disciplinary contributions is provided. The phylogenetic approach to philosophy of science utilized in this study is relevant to philosophical studies of other sciences and meets numerous criteria of adequacy for analyses of conceptual change.


Description Looks at conceptual change in the nature of explanations of biological novelty in evolutionary developmental biology over the past 50 years as related to the field's multiple disciplinary origins. Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 67/06 (2007). Pub. no. AAT 3224001.

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Authors & Contributors
Morgan, Gregory J.
Keuck, Gerhard
Richardson, Michael K.
Amundson, Ronald
Kutschera, Ulrich
Niklas, Karl J.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Biology and Philosophy
Biological Reviews Published for the Cambridge Philosophical Society
Annals of the History and Philosophy of Biology
Cambridge University Press
MIT Press
University of Pittsburgh
University of Calgary (Canada)
Developmental biology
Molecular biology
Philosophy of science
Evolutionary developmental biology
Monod, Jacques
Haeckel, Ernst
Darwin, Charles Robert
Waddington, Conrad Hal
Weiss, Paul A.
Jacob, François
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
19th century
20th century, late
United States
Institut Pasteur, Paris
Collège de France, Paris

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