CONCEPT PAPER | doi:10.20944/preprints202106.0578.v1
Subject: Biology, Animal Sciences & Zoology Keywords: homology; developmental mechanism; evidential integration; eumetazoan body plan; phylogenetics
Online: 23 June 2021 (11:45:06 CEST)
Reconstructing ancestral species is a challenging endeavour: fossils are often scarce or enigmatic, and inferring ancestral characters based on novel molecular approaches (e.g. comparative genomics or developmental genetics) has long been controversial. A key philosophical challenge pertinent at present is the lack of a theoretical framework capable of evaluating inferences of homology made through integration of multiple kinds of evidence (e.g. molecular, developmental, or morphological). Here, I present just such a framework. I start with a brief history and critical assessment of attempts at inferring morphological homology through developmental genetics. I then bring attention to a recent model of homology, namely Character Identity Mechanisms (DiFrisco, Love, & Wagner, 2020), intended partly to elucidate the relationships between morphological characters, developmental genetics, and homology. I utilise and build on this model to construct the evaluative framework mentioned above, which judges the epistemic value of evidence of each kind in each particular case based on three proposed criteria: effectiveness, admissibility, and informativity, as well as providing a generalised guideline on how it can be scientifically operationalised. I then point out the evolution of the eumetazoan body plan as a case in point where the application of this framework can yield satisfactory results, both empirically and conceptually. I will conclude with a discussion on some potential implications for more general philosophy of biology and philosophy of science, especially surrounding evidential integration, models and explanation, and reductionism.
CONCEPT PAPER | doi:10.20944/preprints202105.0767.v1
Subject: Biology, Animal Sciences & Zoology Keywords: evidential integration; causal explanation; early animal evolution; phylogenetics; macroevolution; evolutionary scenario; cross-disciplinary research
Online: 31 May 2021 (12:25:44 CEST)
Molecular methods have revolutionised virtually every area of biology, and metazoan phylogenetics is no exception: molecular phylogenies, molecular clocks, comparative phylogenomics, and developmental genetics have collectively transformed our understanding of the evolutionary history of animals. Moreover, the diversity of methods and models within molecular phylogenetics has resulted in significant disagreement among molecular phylogenies as well as between these and traditional phylogenies. Here, I argue that tackling this multifaceted problem lies in integrating evidence to infer the best evolutionary scenario. I begin with an overview of recent developments in early metazoan phylogenetics, followed by a discussion of key conceptual issues in phylogenetics revolving around phylogenetic evidence and theory. I then argue that integration of different kinds of evidence is necessary for arriving at the best evolutionary scenario rather than the best-fitting cladogram. Finally, I discuss the prospects of this view in stimulating interdisciplinary cross-talk in early metazoan research and beyond.