Article ID: CBB782857037

DNA is not an ontologically distinctive developmental cause (2020)


In this article I critically evaluate the thesis that DNA is an ontologically distinctive developmental cause. I shall critically analyse different versions of the latter thesis by taking into consideration concrete developmental cases. I shall argue that DNA is neither a developmental determinant nor an ontologically distinctive developmental cause. Instead, I shall argue that mechanistic analysis shows that DNA's causal role in development depends on the higher robustness of the developmental processes in which it exerts its causal capacities. The focus on process and developmental system implies a metaphysical shift: rather than attributing to DNA molecules biochemically unique properties, I suggest that it might be better to think about DNA's causal role in development in terms of the causal capacities that DNA molecules manifest in a rich developmental milieu. I shall also suggest that my position is distinct both from the view advocating the instrumental primacy of DNA-centric biology and developmental constructionism. It is different from the former because it provides a substantial answer to the question of what makes DNA causally central in developmental processes. Finally, I argue that evolutionary considerations pose an important challenge to developmental constructionism.

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Authors & Contributors
Šustar, Predrag
Morgan, Gregory J.
Chadarevian, Soraya de
Morange, Michel
Sarkar, Sahotra
Plutynski, Anya James
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Biology and Philosophy
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Journal of the History of Biology
Philosophy of Science
University of Pittsburgh
Blackwell Publishers
Harvard University Press
University of Calgary (Canada)
Molecular biology
Developmental biology
Philosophy of science
Brenner, Sydney
Jacob, François
Crick, Francis
Sanger, Frederick
Franklin, Rosalind
Waddington, Conrad Hal
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, late
21st century
19th century
20th century, early
Human Genome Project

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