Causing and Composing Evolution: Lessons from Evo-Devo Mechanisms

In João L. Cordovil, Gil Santos & Davide Vecchi (eds.), New Mechanism Explanation, Emergence and Reduction. Springer. pp. 61-83 (2023)
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Abstract

Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) is often vindicated by theoreticians of the field as a mechanistic science that brings a mechanistic perspective into evolutionary biology. Usually, it is also portrayed as stressing the causal role that development plays in the evolutionary process. However, mechanistic studies in evo-devo typically refer to lineage-specific transformations and lack the generality that evolutionary explanations usually aim for. After reviewing the prospects and limits of a mechanistic view of evo-devo and their studies of homology and novelty, in this chapter I propose a way to combine the mechanistic view of evo-devo with the population-level inclination of more classical approaches to evolution. Such a proposal provides a philosophical framework for understanding the causal role of development in evolution both as mechanistic and as generalizable, population-level.

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Cristina Villegas
Universidade de Lisboa

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