Development, culture, and the units of inheritance

Philosophy of Science 67 (3):368 (2000)
Developmental systems theory (DST) expands the unit of replication from genes to whole systems of developmental resources, which DST interprets in terms of cycling developmental processes. Expansion seems required by DST's argument against privileging genes in evolutionary and developmental explanations of organic traits. DST and the expanded replicator brook no distinction between biological and cultural evolution. However, by endorsing a single expanded unit of inheritance and leaving the classical molecular notion of gene intact, DST achieves only a nominal reunification of heredity and development. I argue that an alternative conceptualization of inheritance denies the classical opposition of genetics and development while avoiding the singularity inherent in the replicator concept. It also yields a new unit--the reproducer--which genuinely integrates genetic and developmental perspectives. The reproducer concept articulates the non-separability of "genetic" and "developmental" roles in units of heredity, development, and evolution. DST reformulated in terms of reproducers rather than replicators preserves an empirically interesting distinction between cultural and biological evolution
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Olivier Rieppel (2008). Do Clades Cladogenerate? Biological Theory 3 (4):375-379.

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