Integrating Generic and Genetic Explanations of Biological Phenomena

  • Both genetic and generic or physical explanations have been invoked to explain biological phenomena for more than a century. But the mechanisms that produce the shape and structure of morphology have been seen primarily, if not exclusively, in terms of genetics for the last half-century. One of the major research trends of the past decade is the reintroduction of physical science approaches to biological sciences through the application of physical principles to specific biological phenomena such as development, evolutionary novelty, and evolvability.
  • Despite this trend, there remains an acute difficulty in how to effectively integrate different types of explanations across scientific disciplines to better understand life’s complexity. Our project aims to facilitate an interdisciplinary dialogue that encourages the integration of intellectual resources from different disciplinary strands and thereby advances efforts in explanatory integration by focusing on questions like: (1) What are the best explanatory frameworks for understanding evolutionary novelty and evolvability, which are essential for comprehending evolution and the nature of life? (2) What is the explanatory scope of genetics with respect to biological phenomena? (3) What are the most fruitful methodologies for studying complexity and emergence in developing biological systems?