Dimensions of integration in interdisciplinary explanations of the origin of evolutionary novelty

Alan C. Love, Gary L. Lugar

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29 Scopus citations


Many philosophers of biology have embraced a version of pluralism in response to the failure of theory reduction but overlook how concepts, methods, and explanatory resources are in fact coordinated, such as in interdisciplinary research where the aim is to integrate different strands into an articulated whole. This is observable for the origin of evolutionary novelty-a complex problem that requires a synthesis of intellectual resources from different fields to arrive at robust answers to multiple allied questions. It is an apt locus for exploring new dimensions of explanatory integration because it necessitates coordination among historical and experimental disciplines (e.g., geology and molecular biology). These coordination issues are widespread for the origin of novel morphologies observed in the Cambrian Explosion. Despite an explicit commitment to an integrated, interdisciplinary explanation, some potential disciplinary contributors are excluded. Notable among these exclusions is the physics of ontogeny. We argue that two different dimensions of integration-data and standards-have been insufficiently distinguished. This distinction accounts for why physics-based explanatory contributions to the origin of novelty have been resisted: they do not integrate certain types of data and differ in how they conceptualize the standard of uniformitarianism in historical, causal explanations. Our analysis of these different dimensions of integration contributes to the development of more adequate and integrated explanatory frameworks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-550
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Cambrian Explosion
  • Evo-devo
  • Genetics
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Physics
  • Reduction


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