Lineage explanations: Explaining how biological mechanisms change

This paper describes a pattern of explanation prevalent in the biological sciences that I call a ‘lineage explanation’. The aim of these explanations is to make plausible certain trajectories of change through phenotypic space. They do this by laying out a series of stages, where each stage shows how some mechanism worked, and the differences between each adjacent stage demonstrates how one mechanism, through minor modifications, could be changed into another. These explanations are important, for though it is widely accepted that there is an ‘incremental constraint’ on evolutionary change, in an important class of cases it is difficult to see how to satisfy this constraint. I show that lineage explanations answer important questions about evolutionary change, but do so by demonstrating differences between individuals rather than invoking population processes, such as natural selection.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axn047
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References found in this work BETA
William Bechtel (2005). Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
Stuart Glennan (2002). Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
Jim Woodward (2002). What is a Mechanism? A Counterfactual Account. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S366-S377.
Stuart Glennan (2005). Modeling Mechanisms. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 36 (2):443-464.

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Citations of this work BETA
Brett Calcott (2014). Engineering and Evolvability. Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):293-313.
Rachael L. Brown (2013). What Evolvability Really Is. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (3):axt014.

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