Research that involves the creation of animals with human-derived parts opens the door to potentially valuable scientific and therapeutic advances, yet invokes unsettling moral questions. Critics and champions alike stand to gain from clear identification and careful consideration of the strongest ethical objections to this research. A prevailing objection argues that crossing the human/nonhuman species boundary introduces inexorable moral confusion (IMC) that warrants a restriction to this research on precautionary grounds. Though this objection may capture the intuitions of many who (...) find this research unsettling, it relies on mistaken views of both biology and moral standing, ultimately distorting the morally relevant facts. We critically examine IMC, identify mistaken essentialist assumptions, and reframe ethical concerns. The upshot is a stronger line of objection that encourages a more inclusive and productive ethical discourse. (shrink)
Exploring whether clades can reproduce leads to new perspectives on general accounts of biological development and individuation. Here we apply James Griesemer's general account of reproduction to clades. Griesemer's account of reproduction includes a requirement for development, raising the question of whether clades may bemeaningfully said to develop. We offer two illustrative examples of what clade development might look like, though evaluating these examples proves difficult due to the paucity of general accounts of development. This difficulty, however, is instructive about (...) what a general account of development should look like and how it may usefully be applied to research problems (further suggesting a means for evaluating general accounts of development). Reproduction also requires individuation of parent and offspring. We argue that there is no special problem of individuating older and younger clades. The vagaries involved with determining when clades begin, mature, and end are precisely the same as those that arise when the same questions are asked of cells, organisms, or species. Though the question of clade reproduction and selection may still be open, the process of discovery presents new insights into old problems. (shrink)
The themes, problems and challenges of developmental systems theory as described in Cycles of Contingency are discussed. We argue in favor of a robust approach to philosophical and scientific problems of extended heredity and the integration of behavior, development, inheritance, and evolution. Problems with Sterelny's proposal to evaluate inheritance systems using his `Hoyle criteria' are discussed and critically evaluated. Additional support for a developmental systems perspective is sought in evolutionary studies of performance and behavior modulation of fitness.
Samir Okasha argues that clade selection is an incoherent concept, because the relation that constitutes clades is such that it renders parent-offspring (reproduction) relations between clades impossible. He reasons that since clades cannot reproduce, it is not coherent to speak of natural selection operating at the clade level. We argue, however, that when species-level lineages and clade-level lineages are treated consistently according to standard cladist commitments, clade reproduction is indeed possible and clade selection is coherent if certain conditions obtain. Despite (...) clade selection’s logical coherence, however, we share some of Okasha’s pessimism. Whether or not clades are a unit of selection is ultimately a question of empirical support and theoretical import, but we offer reasons to be skeptical about clade selection as a research programme. (shrink)