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Inherency and agency in the origin and evolution of biological functions

Newman, Stuart A. (2022) Inherency and agency in the origin and evolution of biological functions. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Although classically discussed in terms drawn from the sciences of non-living systems, biological function in recent decades has been considered in relation to organismal capability and purpose. Bringing two phenomena generally neglected in evolutionary theory – inherency and agency – to bear on questions of function leads to a rejection of the adaptationist “selected effects” notion of biological function. I review work showing that organisms like the placozoans can thrive with almost no functional embellishments beyond those of their constituent cells and physical properties of their simple tissues. I also discuss work showing that individual tissue cells and their artificial aggregates exhibit agential behaviours that are unprecedented in the histories of their respective lineages. I review findings on the unique metazoan mechanism of developmental gene expression that has recruited, during evolution, inherent ancestral cellular functionalities into specialized cell types and organs of the different animal groups. I conclude that most essential functions in animal species are inherent to the cells from which they evolved, not selected effects, and that many of the others are optional “add-ons,” a status inimical to fitness-based models of evolution positing that traits emerge from stringent cycles of selection to meet external challenges.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Newman, Stuart A.newman@nymc.edu0000-0002-3569-6429
Keywords: adaptationism, biobots, causal role, cell types, fitness, function-appropriation engine, niche construction, placozoans, selected effects
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Developmental Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Explanation
Depositing User: Dr. Stuart Newman
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2022 04:08
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2022 04:08
Item ID: 20481
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Developmental Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Explanation
Date: 18 April 2022
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20481

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