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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    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.
    Lindley Darden (2005). Relations Among Fields: Mendelian, Cytological and Molecular Mechanisms. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 36 (2):349-371.
    Stuart Glennan (2002). Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
    Stuart Glennan (2005). Modeling Mechanisms. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 36 (2):443-464.

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