Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):365-399 (2005)

Matteo Mameli
King's College London
Since the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA, the standard account of the inheritance of features has been in terms of DNA-copying and DNA-transmission. This theory is just a version of the old theory according to which the inheritance of features is explained by the transfer at conception of some developmentally privileged material from parents to offspring. This paper does the following things: (1) it explains what the inheritance of features is; (2) it explains how the DNA-centric theory emerged; (3) it clarifies the relation between the DNA-centric theory and the ‘unfolding’ theory of development; (4) it argues that (given what we now know about developmental processes and genetic activity) the DNA-centric theory should be abandoned in favour of a pluralistic (but not holistic) theory of the inheritance of features. According to this pluralistic theory, the reliable reoccurrence of phenotypes must be explained by appealing not only to processes responsible for the reliable reoccurrence of genetic developmental factors but also to processes responsible for the reliable reoccurrence (or persistence) of nongenetic developmental factors.
Keywords Development  Environment  Genetic  Heredity  Information  Inheritance  Nongenetic  Specificity
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-004-0560-0
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