The integrative approach to inferring homology: morphology and development combined

Nejad Kourki, Arsham  ORCID logo

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pReconstructing 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 et al. 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: jats:italiceffectiveness</jats:italic>, jats:italicadmissibility</jats:italic>, and jats:italicinformativity</jats:italic>, 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.</jats:p>

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Article, Homology, Developmental mechanism, Evidential integration, Eumetazoan body plan, Phylogenetics
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Biology &amp; Philosophy
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Springer Science and Business Media LLC