Intersecting Processes Are Necessary Explanantia for Evolutionary Biology, but Challenge Retrodiction

Eric Bapteste and Gemma Anderson

in Everything Flows

Published in print May 2018 | ISBN: 9780198779636
Published online July 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780191824685 | DOI:

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Processes are ubiquitous in biology and play a key explanatory role in evolutionary biology, where they are frequently depicted by patterns. In particular, phylogenetic trees represent divergence from a last common ancestor with a branching pattern. However, the increasingly recognized underdetermination of phylogenetic trees limits the accuracy of tree-based retrodiction. Even phylogenetic networks, which include additional processes intersecting with vertical descent, still provide incomplete descriptions of evolutionary processes, as they usually miss processes that impact unrelated lineages. Interaction networks highlight the intersection of processes that sustain biological diversity. The complex topology of all these networks further challenges retrodiction. Remarkably, when intersecting processes are involved in evolutionary transitions, they introduce new biological processes on Earth. Processes, and hence the explanantia of evolutionary biology, evolve, which challenges uniformitarian approaches to retrodiction. Despite these difficulties, a yet to be introduced typology of processes would help to analyse the (big) processual picture of life.

Keywords: eukaryogenesis; evolution; genomics; lateral gene transfer; microbiology; network; process; tree of life; web of life

Chapter.  7756 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Metaphysics

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