In C. Kenneth Waters & James Woodward (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Causal Reasoning in Biology. Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science. Vol. XXI. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (forthcoming)

Marcel Weber
University of Geneva
Causal selection is the task of picking out, from a field of known causally relevant factors, some factors as elements of an explanation. The Causal Parity Thesis in the philosophy of biology challenges the usual ways of making such selections among different causes operating in a developing organism. The main target of this thesis is usually gene centrism, the doctrine that genes play some special role in ontogeny, which is often described in terms of information-bearing or programming. This paper is concerned with the attempt of confronting the challenge coming from the Causal Parity Thesis by offering principles of causal selection that are spelled out in terms of an explicit philosophical account of causation, namely an interventionist account. I show that two such accounts that have been developed, although they contain important insights about causation in biology, nonetheless fail to provide an adequate reply to the Causal Parity challenge: Ken Waters's account of actual-difference making and Jim Woodward's account of causal specificity. A combination of the two also doesn't do the trick, nor does Laura Franklin-Hall's account of explanation (in this volume). We need additional conceptual resources. I argue that the resources we need consist in a special class of counterfactual conditionals, namely counterfactuals the antecedents of which describe biologically normal interventions.
Keywords Philosophy of biology  Causal parity thesis  Causal specificity  Counterfactuals  Interventionism
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References found in this work BETA

Making Things Happen. A Theory of Causal Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):233-249.
Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
Causation as Influence.David Lewis - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):182-197.

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Citations of this work BETA

Restricted Causal Relevance.Anders Strand & Gry Oftedal - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (2):431-457.
Varieties of Parity.Ulrich E. Stegmann - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (6):903-918.
The Dispositional Genome: Primus Inter Pares.Christopher J. Austin - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (2):227-246.

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