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Functional Homology and Homology of Function: Biological Concepts and Philosophical Consequences

Love, Alan (2007) Functional Homology and Homology of Function: Biological Concepts and Philosophical Consequences. In: UNSPECIFIED.

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Abstract

“Functional homology” appears regularly in different areas of biological research and yet it is apparently a contradiction in terms—homology concerns identity of structure regardless of form and function. I argue that despite this conceptual tension there is a legitimate conception of ‘homology of function’, which can be recovered by utilizing a distinction from pre-Darwinian physiology (use versus activity) to identify an appropriate meaning of ‘function’. This account is directly applicable to molecular developmental biology and shares a connection to the theme of hierarchy in homology. I situate ‘homology of function’ within existing definitions and criteria for structural assessments of homology, and introduce a criterion of ‘organization’ for judging function homologues, which focuses on hierarchically interconnected interdependencies (similar to relative position and connection for skeletal elements in structural homology). This analysis of biological concepts has at least three broad philosophical consequences: (1) it provides the grounds for the study of behavior and psychological categories as homologues; (2) it demonstrates that philosophers who take selected effect function as primary effectively ignore large portions of comparative, structural, and experimental research, thereby misconstruing biological reasoning and knowledge; and, (3) it underwrites causal generalizations, which illuminates inferences made from model organisms in experimental biology.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
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Love, Alan
Additional Information: Presented as part of the symposium ‘The Importance of Homology for Biology and Philosophy’ at ISHPSSB 2007 (July 25-29, Exeter). To appear together with the other symposium papers in a special issue of Biology and Philosophy (2007, volume 22, issue 5, guest-editors: I. Brigandt and P.E. Griffiths).
Keywords: activity, developmental biology, epistemology, function, homology, structural biology
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Depositing User: Ingo Brigandt
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2007
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:15
Item ID: 3518
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/3518

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