Biology and Philosophy 25 (4):529-552 (2010)

Abstract
Ernst Mayr’s influence on philosophy of biology has given the field a particular perspective on evolution, phylogeny and life in general. Using debates about the tree of life as a guide, I show how Mayrian evolutionary biology excludes numerous forms of life and many important evolutionary processes. Hybridization and lateral gene transfer are two of these processes, and they occur frequently, with important outcomes in all domains of life. Eukaryotes appear to have a more tree-like history because successful lateral events tend to occur among more closely related species, or at a lower frequency, than in prokaryotes, but this is a difference of degree rather than kind. Although the tree of life is especially problematic as a representation of the evolutionary history of prokaryotes, it can function more generally as an illustration of the limitations of a standard evolutionary perspective. Moreover, for philosophers, questions about the tree of life can be applied to the Mayrian inheritance in philosophy of biology. These questions make clear that the dichotomy of life Mayr suggested is based on too narrow a perspective. An alternative to this dichotomy is a multidimensional continuum in which different strategies of genetic exchange bestow greater adaptiveness and evolvability on prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
Keywords Philosophy   Evolutionary Biology   Philosophy of Biology
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-010-9214-6
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References found in this work BETA

Animal Species and Evolution.Ernst Mayr - 1963 - Belknap of Harvard University Press.
Philosophy of Experimental Biology.Marcel Weber - 2004 - Cambridge University Press.
Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist.Ernst Mayr - 1988 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

When Integration Fails: Prokaryote Phylogeny and the Tree of Life.Maureen A. O’Malley - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4a):551-562.

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