PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Neutral spaces and topological explanations in evolutionary biology: lessons from some landscapes and mappings

I study two uses of the notion of mathematical space – hyperdimensional fitness landscapes (Gavrilets 2004) and RNA sequence-structure maps (Stadler et al. 2001) - in evolutionary biology and genetics. I argue that through their appeal to “neutral” manifolds, they instantiate topological explanations (Huneman 2010) of specific features of evolutionary systems: populations not remaining stucked on local fitness optima on the one hand, differential robustness and evolvability of genotypes on the other hand. I’ll eventually discuss the connection between the notion of selective neutrality, recently proven crucial in recent genetics and especially community ecology, and the use of topological explanations.

Author Information:

Philippe Huneman    
IHPST, Paris


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