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Title: Developmental explanations of evolution : a challenge to neo-Darwinism?
Author: Ioannidis, Stavros
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2011
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This study in philosophy of biology examines the conflict between the research program of evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo) and the traditional view of evolution, the Modem Synthesis. In the core of this conflict lies the role of development in evolutionary explanation: whereas Evo-devo uses developmental facts to explain evolutionary outcomes, according to the received view of evolution this is to misunderstand evolutionary theory. The aim of the thesis is a philosophical analysis of Evo-devo explanations and their consequences for our understanding of evolution. A number of philosophers and biologists have argued in favour of the compatibility between Evo-devo and traditional evolutionary explanations. So, it has been argued that: Evo-devo explanations aren't really explanations at all, only descriptions; they are about a different level of the evolutionary process (variation); they are explanations of macro- as opposed to microevolution; they are explanations of form rather than function; and lastly, they are individual-level rather than population-level explanations. Not all of the above distinctions point towards a peaceful co-existence of the two kinds of explanations. In order to have a more clear idea of the differences between the two, I discuss the above distinctions in light of some recent examples of Evo-devo explanations. I give an account of how we should understand the general nature of such explanations, and the difficulties in synthesizing them in a common evolutionary theory. Throughout the thesis I will discuss various important concepts and kinds of explanations used in Evo-devo: central among them are Evo-devo explanations of macroevolution, the concept of the Bauplan and similar notions like the vertebrate limb, and the notion of constraints in evolution. The central claim of the thesis is that Evo-devo shows that development can be causally relevant to evolutionary change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available