By Susan Oyama
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Extra info for Evolution's Eye: A Systems View of the Biology-Culture Divide
In exploring the relationship between embryology and evolution, R. A. Raﬀ and T. C. ’’ This is the case, they say, because evolution consists of genetic changes. Transmission and Construction Having accepted the deﬁnition of evolution as evolution of genes, these developmentalists have no choice but to conceptualize development of species characters as explained by, caused by, and guided by those genes. Brenner’s case is especially instructive. He set out to describe in complete detail the development of Caenorhabditis elegans, a remarkable worm that seems to ﬁt the metaphor of a preset computer program mechanically producing an inevitable result.
It consists of pronouncing the nature-nurture issue dead, ‘‘except in the minds of a few unsophisticated individuals’’ (Alland :–). Alexander Alland, an anthropologist, invokes the principle of interaction between genes and environment, and then proceeds to treat the two as alternative sources of form and function rather than as joint determiners, either of which can be a source of variation. In addition, the genetic is seen as basic, natural, necessary, and more or less ﬁxed, while the environmental is secondary, changeable, and contingent.
Nature and nurture are therefore not alternative sources of form and causal power. Rather, nature is the product of the processes that are the developmental interactions we call nurture. At the same time, that phenotypic nature is a developmental resource for subsequent interactions. An Ontogeny and the Central Dogma organism’s nature is simply its form and function. Because nature is phenotypic, it depends on developmental context as profoundly and intimately as it does on the genome. To identify nature with that genome, then, is to miss the full developmental story in much the same way that preformationist explanations have always done.