Inheritance Systems

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition) (2012)
Authors
Ehud Lamm
Tel Aviv University
Abstract
Organisms inherit various kinds of developmental information and cues from their parents. The study of inheritance systems is aimed at identifying and classifying the various mechanisms and processes of heredity, the types of hereditary information that is passed on by each, the functional interaction between the different systems, and the evolutionary consequences of these properties. We present the discussion of inheritance systems in the context of several debates. First, between proponents of monism about heredity (gene-centric views), holism about heredity (Developmental Systems Theory), and those stressing the role of multiple systems of inheritance. Second, between those analyzing inheritance solely in terms of replication and transmission, and views that stress the multi-generation reproduction of phenotypic traits. A third debate is concerned with different criteria that have been proposed for identifying and delimiting inheritance systems. A fourth controversy revolves around the significance of the “Lamarckian” aspects of some of the inheritance systems that have been identified, such as epigenetic inheritance and behavioral inheritance, that allow the transmission of environmentally induced characters (i.e., “soft inheritance”).
Keywords inheritance system  replicator  reproducer  information  Jablonka  niche construction
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