Roger Sansom

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780195182057
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy



This article focuses on evolvability. Richard Dawkins coined the term evolvability. The metaphysics of evolvability involves mutation and adaptation. It is improved by modularity. A “modular system” is one that is composed of relatively independent parts. The dynamics of evolvability involves selection for evolvability of lineages, by contrasting it with the selection for a trait value for adaptivity of an organism. A new kind of selective explanation for evolvability is the use of Hsp90 which improves organism fitness by maintaining signal pathways and interacting with denatured proteins. The view that evolution is progressive has difficulty in establishing a trend that tells us something about the process of evolution. Dawkins acknowledges that catastrophes dramatically reduce adaptivity but he failed to recognize that they greatly increase evolvability.

Keywords: metaphysics; mutation; adaptation; evolvability; selection; dynamics

Article.  10869 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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