Biological Theory

ISSN: 1555-5542

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  1.  12
    Revisiting Edward D. Cope’s “The Relation of Animal Motion to Animal Evolution” (1878).George R. McGhee - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):37-43.
    In 1878 evolutionary theoretician Edward D. Cope published an eight-page paper filled with prescient ideas that clearly anticipated theoretical evolutionary topics that are actively being debated some 145 years later. An examination of these ideas and their modern counterparts is the primary objective of this essay. A proposal is also made to provide an answer to Cope’s Puzzle concerning the sequences of events involved in the evolution of adaptive animal structures. This article revisits Cope’s “The Relation of Animal Motion to (...)
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  2.  15
    Concepts of Agency: Introduction to the Thematic Section.Lenny Moss - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):3-5.
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  3.  25
    The Concept of Agent in Biology: Motivations and Meanings.Samir Okasha - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):6-10.
    Biological agency has received much attention in recent philosophy of biology. But what is the motivation for introducing talk of agency into biology and what is meant by “agent”? Two distinct motivations can be discerned. The first is that thinking of organisms as agents helps to articulate what is distinctive about organisms vis-à-vis other biological entities. The second is that treating organisms as agent-like is a useful heuristic for understanding their evolved behavior. The concept of agent itself may be understood (...)
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  4.  36
    What Is Agency? A View from Science Studies and Cybernetics.Andrew Pickering - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):16-21.
    The first part of this essay relates a minimal and primordial concept of agency to be found in science and technology studies to an overall ontology of liveliness. The second part explores the relation between minimal and higher-level conceptions of agency concerning goal-orientedness and adaptation, and moves towards specifically biological concerns via a discussion of cybernetic machines.
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  5.  14
    George McGhee—Visionary Scientist and Pioneer in Evo-Devo.Isabella Sarto-Jackson, Gerd B. Müller & Stuart A. Newman - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):1-2.
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  6.  25
    The Microbiome Function in a Host Organism: A Medical Puzzle or an Essential Ecological Environment?Tamar Schneider - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):44-55.
    The dual role of microbial communities as either beneficial/functional or harmful/pathogenic involves two issues concerning causality in physiology and medicine, etiology of disease, and the notion of function in biology. Causal explanation formulated by the germ theory of disease and the Koch postulates connects the existence of a specifically identified microbe to disease by the isolation and identification of a pathogen from an organism with the disease and the successful infection of a healthy individual. Similarly, microbiome research in medicine centers (...)
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  7.  36
    Neuroepigenetics in Philosophical Focus: A Critical Analysis of the Philosophy of Mechanisms.Antonella Tramacere & John Bickle - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):56-71.
    Epigenetics investigates the dynamics of gene expression in various cells, and the signals from the internal and external environment affecting these dynamics. Neuroepigenetics extends this research into neurons and glia cells. Environmental-induced changes in gene expression are not only associated with the emerging structure and function of the nervous system during ontogeny, but are also fundamental to the wiring of neural circuitries responsible for learning and memory. Yet philosophers of science and neuroscience have so far paid little attention to these (...)
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  8.  40
    What is Agency? A View from Autonomy Theory.Louis Virenque & Matteo Mossio - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):11-15.
    The theory of biological autonomy provides a naturalized characterization of agency, understood as a general biological phenomenon that extends beyond the domain of intentionality and causation by mental states. Agency refers to the capacity of autonomous living beings (roughly speaking: organisms) to purposively and functionally control the interactions with the environment, and to adaptively modulate their own self-determining organization and behavior so as to maintain their own existence, construed as their intrinsic telos. We mention some crucial strengths of the autonomist (...)
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  9.  18
    Agency, Goal-Directed Behavior, and Part-Whole Relationships in Biological Systems.Richard Watson - 2024 - Biological Theory 19 (1):22-36.
    In this essay we aim to present some considerations regarding a minimal but concrete notion of agency and goal-directed behavior that are useful for characterizing biological systems at different scales. These considerations are a particular perspective, bringing together concepts from dynamical systems, combinatorial problem-solving, and connectionist learning with an emphasis on the relationship between parts and wholes. This perspective affords some ways to think about agents that are concrete and quantifiable, and relevant to some important biological issues. Instead of advocating (...)
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