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Developmental Plasticity and Common Cause ExplanationBecause it involves complex interactions between genes, phenotypes, and the environment it is difficult to tease out which phenotypic variations in a particular lineage are generated by natural selection operating on environmentally initiated novelties as opposed to mutationally induced novelties. As I have argued elsewhere, common cause reasoning is widely used in the geological sciences to differentiate among competing historical hypotheses about the causes of traces found in the present day environment. Could common cause reasoning help evolutionary biologists distinguish between adaptive traits originating in environmentally vs. mutationally induced phenotypic novelties? This talk explores this question.
Department of Philosophy
University of Colorado (Boulder)