David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):719-745 (2013)
In 1961, Ernst Mayr published a highly influential article on the nature of causation in biology, in which he distinguished between proximate and ultimate causes. Mayr argued that proximate causes (e.g. physiological factors) and ultimate causes (e.g. natural selection) addressed distinct ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and were not competing alternatives. That distinction retains explanatory value today. However, the adoption of Mayr’s heuristic led to the widespread belief that ontogenetic processes are irrelevant to evolutionary questions, a belief that has (1) hindered progress within evolutionary biology, (2) forged divisions between evolutionary biology and adjacent disciplines and (3) obstructed several contemporary debates in biology. Here we expand on our earlier (Laland et al. in Science 334:1512–1516, 2011) argument that Mayr’s dichotomous formulation has now run its useful course, and that evolutionary biology would be better served by a concept of reciprocal causation, in which causation is perceived to cycle through biological systems recursively. We further suggest that a newer evolutionary synthesis is unlikely to emerge without this change in thinking about causation
|Keywords||Niche construction Nongenetic inheritance Evo-devo Cultural evolution|
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References found in this work BETA
André Ariew (2003). Ernst Mayr's 'Ultimate/Proximate' Distinction Reconsidered and Reconstructed. Biology and Philosophy 18 (4):553-565.
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Citations of this work BETA
Ward B. Watt (2013). Causal Mechanisms of Evolution and the Capacity for Niche Construction. Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):757-766.
Brett Calcott (2013). Why How and Why Aren't Enough: More Problems with Mayr's Proximate-Ultimate Distinction. Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):767-780.
David Haig (2013). Proximate and Ultimate Causes: How Come? And What For? [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):781-786.
Kevin N. Laland, John Odling-Smee, William Hoppitt & Tobias Uller (2013). More on How and Why: A Response to Commentaries. Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):793-810.
Kim Sterelny (2013). Cooperation in a Complex World: The Role of Proximate Factors in Ultimate Explanations. [REVIEW] Biological Theory 7 (4):358-367.
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