Homology across inheritance systems

Biology and Philosophy 29 (6):781-806 (2014)

Nicholas Shea
School of Advanced Study, University of London
Russell Powell
Boston University
Recent work on inheritance systems can be divided into inclusive conceptions, according to which genetic and non-genetic inheritance are both involved in the development and transmission of nearly all animal behavioral traits, and more demanding conceptions of what it takes for non-genetic resources involved in development to qualify as a distinct inheritance system. It might be thought that, if a more stringent conception is adopted, homologies could not subsist across two distinct inheritance systems. Indeed, it is commonly assumed that homology relations cannot survive a shift between genetic and cultural inheritance systems, and substantial reliance has been placed on that assumption in debates over the phylogenetic origins of hominin behavioral traits, such as male-initiated intergroup aggression. However, in the homology literature it is widely accepted that a trait can be homologous—that is, inherited continuously in two different lineages from a single common ancestor—despite divergence in the mechanisms involved in the trait’s development in the two lineages. In this paper, we argue that even on an extremely stringent understanding of what it takes for developmental resources to form a separate inheritance system, homologies can nonetheless subsist across shifts between distinct inheritance systems. We argue that this result is a merit of this way of characterizing what it is to be an inheritance system, that it has implications for adjudicating between alternative accounts of homology, and that it offers an important cautionary lesson about how to reason with the homology concept, particularly in the context of cultural species
Keywords Inheritance system  Homology  Genetic inheritance  Cultural inheritance  Genetic assimilation  Genetic accommodation
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10539-014-9433-3
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 48,784
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

View all 29 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Is Symbolic Inheritance Similar to Genetic Inheritance?Luc Steels - 2007 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (4):376-377.
Inheritance Systems.Ehud Lamm - 2012 - The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition).
The Inheritance of Features.Matteo Mameli - 2005 - Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):365-399.
An Ethics of Inheritance.Caroline Guibet Lafaye - 2008 - Philosophy Today 52 (1):25-35.
Imitation as an Inheritance System.Nicholas Shea - 2009 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364:2429-2443.
Phenogenotypes Break Up Under Countervailing Evolutionary Pressures.Robert Aunger - 2000 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (1):147-147.
Developmental Causation and the Problem of Homology.David A. Baum - 2013 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 5 (20150505).


Added to PP index

Total views
119 ( #73,392 of 2,309,266 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #524,342 of 2,309,266 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature