Images of Development

Environmental Causes in Ontogeny

By Cor van der Weele

Subjects: Evolution
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy and Biology
Paperback : 9780791440469, 182 pages, January 1999
Hardcover : 9780791440452, 182 pages, January 1999

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


1. Introduction: How to Understand Development?


Three Approaches to Development
Metaphors and Science
Environmental Influence: A General Picture Is Not Enough
Relationships with Other Discussions


2. Three Casual Approaches


Metaphors Surrounding DNA
Segmentation in Drosophila
Switches and Responses
Fields/Structures: Goodwin versus Neo-Darwinsim
Comparison and Conclusions


3. Explanations in their Theoretical Context


Completeness and the Ideal Explanatory Text
The Ideal Text and Pragmatism
Linguistic Choices: Metaphors
Casual Explanation: Differences
Casual Explanation in Genetics
What Is Relational Causation
Structuralist Causation
Contructionist Causation
Similarities and Differences
Implications for the Pragmatics of Casual Explanation


4. Development and Evolution


Integrating Separate Disciplines
Proximate and Ultimate Causes
Internal versus External Causes
Integration: Internal Constraints?
Different Roles for the Environment
Epigenetics and Evolution
Developmental Systems and the Boundary Problem


5. Environmental Causes in Ontogeny


Conceptual Tools: Norms of Reaction
. .. And Polyphenisms
Epigenetics: Study of Gene Regulation
Heat-Shock Proteins
Making a Difference
Abnormal Environments
Toward an Ecology of Development


6. Ethics of Attention


Garfinkel and Value-Laden Explanations
Nonmoral Motives: Positivity Bias
Casual Choices and their Context
Contested Scientific Choices
Ethics of Attention






Questions the dominant biological approach of explaining animal development as entirely genetic by exploring the explanatory value of investigating environmental influences.


Images of Development questions the dominant biological approach of explaining animal development as entirely genetic by exploring the explanatory value of investigating environmental influences. Van der Weele discusses assumptions, explanatory patterns, and conceptual tools in developmental and evolutionary biology and reviews many concrete examples of environmental influence in animal development. She provides perspectives from biology, philosophy of science, and ethics in an integrative way.

Cor van der Weele is Assistant Professor of Science and Ethics at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.


"Images of Development introduces biology and philosophy for specialists and, at the same time, for readers not acquainted with one or both of these fields. The amazing thing is that, as one continues reading, one notices after a while that the two disciplines merge in such a way that you can't tell them apart anymore. This is philosophy of biology at its best.

"This book offers a perspective on developmental biology, evolutionary biology, genetics, and relations between these disciplines which is entirely new. In forging relations, it uncovers minor and major biases, not least those concerning overemphases on genetics. This ultimately leads to a view of relations between ethics and science which should have profound consequences for ethics and science alike. " — Wim J. van der Steen, author of A Practical Philosophy for the Life Sciences

"Van der Weele covers many important topics and relates them to each other very well. The focus on environmental causes is a welcome counterbalance to overemphasis on the gene, and her discussion of the pragmatics of science is timely. " — Susan Oyama, John Jay College, City University of New York and CUNY Graduate School