Article ID: CBB904878427

The Multifaceted Legacy of the Human Genome Program for Evolutionary Biology: An Epistemological Perspective (2019)


This paper discusses the claim that alternative views to evolutionary biology based on novel advances in understanding the molecular and developmental bases of variation and inheritance should be captured as a shift from "statistical" to "mechanistic" explanatory schemes (Pigliucci and Müller 2011). Granted, statistical approaches characterized the Modern Synthesis, but by examining the epistemic features of postgenomic science I claim that this is not a proper characterization of the current epistemic shift. I will first characterize the dual nature of the gene in development and inheritance, accounting for it in terms of difference between two sorts of causal ascriptions. Following the shift in postgenomic science regarding the concepts of genes, variation and inheritance, I will first argue that, in contrast to mechanistic explanations, the shift provides us with novel topological explanatory frameworks to approach genomic networks of many sorts, and novel and nucleotide-focused statistical tools unlikely to translate directly into the mechanistic modeling of causal roles. I claim that instead of addressing epistemic changes on the basis of the classical statistics vs. mechanisms difference one should rather acknowledge the diversification of explanatory modes proper to postgenomic science, and to the consequences of this for evolutionary biology.

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Authors & Contributors
Vermeulen, Niki
Penders, Bart
Parker, John N.
Merlin, Francesca
Davies, Kevin
Palladino, Paolo
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Journal of the History of Biology
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Filosofia e História da Biologia
Johns Hopkins University Press
Basic Books
Developmental biology
Evolutionary developmental biology
Molecular biology
Variation (biology)
Johannsen, Wilhelm Ludvig
Sokal, Robert R.
Darwin, Charles Robert
Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Antoine Pierre de Monet de
Wilson, Edmund Beecher
Waddington, Conrad Hal
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
United States
Human Genome Project
Census of Marine Life (1999-2009)

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