Functional complexity in organisms: Parts as proxies [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Biology and Philosophy 15 (5):641-668 (2000)
The functional complexity, or the number of functions, of organisms hasfigured prominently in certain theoretical and empirical work inevolutionary biology. Large-scale trends in functional complexity andcorrelations between functional complexity and other variables, such assize, have been proposed. However, the notion of number of functions hasalso been operationally intractable, in that no method has been developedfor counting functions in an organism in a systematic and reliable way.Thus, studies have had to rely on the largely unsupported assumption thatnumber of functions can be measured indirectly, by using number ofmorphological, physiological, and behavioral parts as a proxy. Here, amodel is developed that supports this assumption. Specifically, the modelpredicts that few parts will have many functions overlapping in them, andtherefore the variance in number of functions per part will be low. If so,then number of parts is expected to be well correlated with number offunctions, and we can use part counts as proxies for function counts incomparative studies of organisms, even when part counts are low. Alsodiscussed briefly is a strategy for identifying certain kinds of parts inorganisms in a systematic way.
|Keywords||complexity evolution function modularity parts|
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Citations of this work BETA
Ellen Clarke (2011). The Problem of Biological Individuality. Biological Theory 5 (4):312-325.
Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther (2006). Parts and Theories in Compositional Biology. Biology and Philosophy 21 (4):471-499.
Marvalee H. Wake (2008). Organisms and Organization. Biological Theory 3 (3):213-223.
Yuri I. Wolf & Eugene V. Koonin (2013). Genome Reduction as the Dominant Mode of Evolution. Bioessays 35 (9):829-837.
Kari L. Theurer (2014). Complexity-Based Theories of Emergence: Criticisms and Constraints. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (3):277-301.
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