Philosophy of Science 48 (3):438-453 (1981)
Most patterns of an organism develop reproducibly and predictably. Thus, most biological patterns are largely predetermined by the nature of the zygote and by the nature of the surrounding world. Some ontogenetic patterns can also be considered to be preformed. Eighteenth and nineteenth century definitions of 'preformation' suggested that all aspects of a precursor pattern--its elements and its configuration--are preserved during development. Today, the idea of preformed configurations has been lost. To revive this lost idea, we offer the following biologically contemporary definition for preformed ontogenetic patterns: preformed patterns are those patterns with topologies that have been conserved during their ontogenies. This definition is presented in precise mathematical language, and its application is demonstrated in a system of developing, abstract patterns
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