University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

History of Science and Technology/Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Friday, October 14th 2016
Speaker: Günter Wagner, Yale University
Subject: "The Conceptual Weight of Homology"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

The homology concept, i.e. the idea that different species can have the same or corresponding body parts, is fundamental to biology but has, as many basic concepts in biology, a rather varied history. Opinions range from accepting homology as a fundament of all of biology to complete dismissal as a pure illusion. I will give a brief outline of how we arrived at this state of affairs and then make an argument for a “reformed” homology concept that is not only capture the essence of the classical theories of homology but also is able to connect to a mechanistic understanding of developmental biology. The key idea is that homology requires developmental and genetic individuality and that many of the difficulties of current applications of homology result from ignoring this problem. I will finish with the argument that evolutionary biology needs, besides population thinking (Mayr) and tree thinking (O’Hara) a third form of intellectual framework that could be called “homology thinking” (Ereshefsky 2012).

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