PhilSci Archive

Beyond quantitative and qualitative traits: three telling cases in the life sciences

Serpico, Davide (2020) Beyond quantitative and qualitative traits: three telling cases in the life sciences. Biology & Philosophy. ISSN 1572-8404

[img]
Preview
Text
Serpico 2020 Beyond Quantitative and Qualitative Traits_PREPRINT.pdf

Download (1MB) | Preview

Abstract

This paper challenges the common assumption that some phenotypic traits are quantitative while others are qualitative. The distinction between these two kinds of traits is widely influential in biological and biomedical research as well as in scientific education and communication. This is probably due to both historical and epistemological reasons. However, the quantitative/qualitative distinction involves a variety of simplifications on the genetic causes of phenotypic variability and on the development of complex traits. Here, I examine three cases from the life sciences that show inconsistencies in the distinction: Mendelian traits (dwarfism and pigmentation in plant and animal models), Mendelian diseases (phenylketonuria), and polygenic mental disorders (schizophrenia). I show that these traits can be framed both quantitatively and qualitatively depending, for instance, on the methods through which they are investigated and on specific epistemic purposes (e.g., clinical diagnosis versus causal explanation). This suggests that the received view of quantitative and qualitative traits has a limited heuristic power—limited to some local contexts or to the specific methodologies adopted. Throughout the paper, I provide directions for framing phenotypes beyond the quantitative/qualitative distinction. I conclude by pointing at the necessity of developing a principled characterisation of what phenotypic traits, in general, are.


Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Serpico, Davide
Keywords: Quantitative Traits; Qualitative Traits; Mendelian Diseases; Genetic Liability; Thresholds; Character States.
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Developmental Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
Specific Sciences > Medicine > Psychiatry
Depositing User: Dr. Davide Serpico
Date Deposited: 14 May 2020 03:10
Last Modified: 14 May 2020 03:10
Item ID: 17176
Journal or Publication Title: Biology & Philosophy
Publisher: Springer
Official URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10539-0...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-020-09750-6
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Developmental Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
Specific Sciences > Medicine > Psychiatry
Date: May 2020
ISSN: 1572-8404
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17176

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Altmetric.com

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item