John Wilkins posted a link on Facebook to a recent paper by his colleagues in Australia. The authors are Qiaoying Lu of the Department of Philosophy at Macquarie University in Sidney Australia and Pierrick Bourat of the Department of Philosophy at The University of Sydney in Sidney Australia.
Lu, Q., and Bourrat, P. (2017) The evolutionary gene and the extended evolutionary synthesis. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, (advanced article) April 20, 2017. [doi: 10.1093/bjps/axw035] [PhilSci Archive]The goal of the paper is to make epigenetics compatible with current evolutionary theory. The argument consists of three parts ....
Abstract: Advocates of an ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ have claimed that standard evolutionary theory fails to accommodate epigenetic inheritance. The opponents of the extended synthesis argue that the evidence for epigenetic inheritance causing adaptive evolution in nature is insufficient. We suggest that the ambiguity surrounding the conception of the gene represents a background semantic issue in the debate. Starting from Haig’s gene-selectionist framework and Griffiths and Neumann-Held’s notion of the evolutionary gene, we define senses of ‘gene’, ‘environment’, and ‘phenotype’ in a way that makes them consistent with gene-centric evolutionary theory. We argue that the evolutionary gene, when being materialized, need not be restricted to nucleic acids but can encompass other heritable units such as epialleles. If the evolutionary gene is understood more broadly, and the notions of environment and phenotype are defined accordingly, current evolutionary theory does not require a major conceptual change in order to incorporate the mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance.
2 The Gene-centric Evolutionary Theory and the ‘Evolutionary Gene’
2.1 The evolutionary gene
2.2 Genes, phenotypes, and environments
3 Epigenetic Inheritance and the Gene-Centred Framework
3.1 Treating the gene as the sole heritable material?
3.2 Epigenetics and phenotypic plasticity
- Define "current" evolutionary theory as a gene-centric, adaptationist view of evolution.
- Re-define a "gene" as any heritable trait that affects phenotype.
- Demonstrate that epigenetic effects (e.g. methylation) are encompassed by the new definition.
I have often criticized philosophers on two grounds ...
- Many of their papers have little of no connection to the real world. Their arguments focus on nitpicky twists of logic and definitions and the conclusions they reach are out-of-touch with the scientific consensus. [Massimo Pigliucci tries to defend accommodationism (again): result is predictable] [Methodological naturalism at Dover] [Philosophy and reality] [John Wilkins discusses the "Demarcation Problem"] [Territorial demarcation and the meaning of science] [Science Doesn't Have All the Answers but Does It Have All the Questions?] [Alvin Plantinga Explains Why Naturalistic Evolution Is a Self-Defeating Proposition] [Boudry vs Plantinga] [John Wilkins Defends Methodological Naturalism] [John Wilkins Defends Philosophy: A Bit of History] [What Kind of Knowledge Does Philosophy Discover?] [The Flying Spaghetti Monster Steals Meatballs (What's the Purpose of Philosophy?)] [What's Wrong with Michael Ruse's View of Accommodationism?] [The Trouble with Scientism?] [The Problem with Philosophy: Elliott Sober] [What Is Knowledge?]
- They often fail to represent the current views of science. They frequently get their facts wrong. [When philosophers talk about genomes] [A Philosopher Trashes Junk DNA] [On the Difference Between "Evolutionary Theory" and Scientific Fact] [The Collapse of the "Dawkins Dogma"]
- They do a poor job of defending their view. The reasoning is flawed and sometimes their facts are wrong.
- The fail to mention legitimate alternative views that conflict with their own. This omission is a serious error for philosophers since those legitimate alternative views undermine their case.
- Debating philosophers: The Lu and Bourrat paper [This post.]
- Part I: The Modern Synthesis
- Part II: The difference between genes and alleles
- Part III: The evolutionary gene
- Part IV: The molecular gene
- Part V: Epigenetics