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Causal Selection versus Causal Parity in Biology: Relevant Counterfactuals and Biologically Normal Interventions

In C. Kenneth Waters & James Woodward (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Causal Reasoning in Biology. Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science. Vol. XXI. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (forthcoming)

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  1. Causes with Material Continuity.Lauren N. Ross - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (6):1-17.
    Recent philosophical work on causation has focused on distinctions across types of causal relationships. This paper argues for another distinction that has yet to receive attention in this work. This distinction has to do with whether causal relationships have “material continuity,” which refers to the reliable movement of material from cause to effect. This paper provides an analysis of material continuity and argues that causal relationships with this feature are associated with a unique explanatory perspective, are studied with distinct causal (...)
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  • What is Causal Specificity About, and What is It Good for in Philosophy of Biology?María Ferreira Ruiz - 2021 - Acta Biotheoretica 69 (4):821-839.
    The concept of causal specificity is drawing considerable attention from philosophers of biology. It became the rationale for rejecting a thesis of causal parity of developmental factors. This literature assumes that attributing specificity to causal relations is at least in principle a straightforward task. However, the parity debate in philosophy of biology seems to be stuck at a point where it is not the biological details that will help move forward. In this paper, I take a step back to reexamine (...)
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  • Interactionism, Post-Interactionism, and Causal Complexity: Lessons From the Philosophy of Causation.María Ferreira Ruiz & Jon Umerez - 2021 - Frontiers in Psychology 12.
    In biology and philosophy of biology, discussing the notion of interaction leads to an examination of interactionism, which is, broadly speaking, the view that rejects gene-centrism and gene determinism and instead emphasizes the fact that traits of organisms are always the result of genes and environments. It has long been asserted that the nature-nurture problem requires an interactionist solution of sorts, the so-called interactionist consensus. This consensus, however, has been deemed insufficient and challenged by several authors triggering an extension of (...)
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  • Delegated Causality of Complex Systems.Raimundas Vidunas - 2019 - Axiomathes 29 (1):81-97.
    A notion of delegated causality is introduced here. This subtle kind of causality is dual to interventional causality. Delegated causality elucidates the causal role of dynamical systems at the “edge of chaos”, explicates evident cases of downward causation, and relates emergent phenomena to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. Apparently rich implications are noticed in biology and Chinese philosophy. The perspective of delegated causality supports cognitive interpretations of self-organization and evolution.
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  • Variation of Information as a Measure of One-to-One Causal Specificity.Pierrick Bourrat - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (1):11.
    The interventionist account provides us with several notions permitting the qualification of causal relationships. In recent years, there has been a push toward formalizing these notions using information theory. In this paper, I discuss one of them, namely causal specificity. The notion of causal specificity is ambiguous as it can refer to at least two different concepts. After having presented these, I show that current attempts to formalize causal specificity in information theoretic terms have mostly focused on one of these (...)
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  • Causal Specificity and the Instructive–Permissive Distinction.Brett Calcott - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (4):481-505.
    I use some recent formal work on measuring causation to explore a suggestion by James Woodward: that the notion of causal specificity can clarify the distinction in biology between permissive and instructive causes. This distinction arises when a complex developmental process, such as the formation of an entire body part, can be triggered by a simple switch, such as the presence of particular protein. In such cases, the protein is said to merely induce or "permit" the developmental process, whilst the (...)
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  • The Dispositional Genome: Primus Inter Pares.Christopher J. Austin - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (2):227-246.
    According to the proponents of Developmental Systems Theory and the Causal Parity Thesis, the privileging of the genome as “first among equals” with respect to the development of phenotypic traits is more a reflection of our own heuristic prejudice than of ontology - the underlying causal structures responsible for that specified development no more single out the genome as primary than they do other broadly “environmental” factors. Parting with the methodology of the popular responses to the Thesis, this paper offers (...)
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  • Scientific Coordination Beyond the A Priori: A Three-Dimensional Account of Constitutive Elements in Scientific Practice.Michele Luchetti - 2020 - Dissertation, Central European University
    In this dissertation, I present a novel account of the components that have a peculiar epistemic role in our scientific inquiries, since they contribute to establishing a form of coordination. The issue of coordination is a classic epistemic problem concerning how we justify our use of abstract conceptual tools to represent concrete phenomena. For instance, how could we get to represent universal gravitation as a mathematical formula or temperature by means of a numerical scale? This problem is particularly pressing when (...)
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  • Restricted Causal Relevance.Anders Strand & Gry Oftedal - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (2):431-457.
    Causal selection and priority are at the heart of discussions of the causal parity thesis, which says that all causes of a given effect are on a par, and that any justified priority assigned to a given cause results from causal explanatory interests. In theories of causation that provide necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of causal claims, status as cause is an either/or issue: either a given cause satisfies the conditions or it does not. Consequently, assessments of causal (...)
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  • How Norms Make Causes.Maria Kronfeldner - 2014 - International Journal of Epidemiology 43:1707–1713.
    This paper is on the problem of causal selection and comments on Collingwood's classic paper "The so-called idea of causation". It discusses the relevance of Collingwood’s control principle in contemporary life sciences and defends that it is not the ability to control, but the willingness to control that often biases us towards some rather than other causes of a phenomenon. Willingness to control is certainly only one principle that influences causal selection, but it is an important one. It shows how (...)
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  • Causal Control: A Rationale for Causal Selection.Lauren N. Ross - 2015
    Causal selection has to do with the distinction we make between background conditions and “the” true cause or causes of some outcome of interest. A longstanding consensus in philosophy views causal selection as lacking any objective rationale and as guided, instead, by arbitrary, pragmatic, and non-scientific considerations. I argue against this position in the context of causal selection for disease traits. In this domain, causes are selected on the basis of the type of causal control they exhibit over a disease (...)
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  • How Biological Technology Should Inform the Causal Selection Debate.Janella Baxter - 2019 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11.
    Waters’s (2007) actual difference making and Weber’s (2013, 2017) biological normality approaches to causal selection have received many criticisms, some of which miss their target. Disagreement about whether Waters’s and Weber’s views succeed in providing criteria that uniquely singles out the gene as explanatorily significant in biology has led philosophers to overlook a prior problem. Before one can address whether Waters’s and Weber’s views successfully account for the explanatory significance of genes, one must ask whether either view satisfactorily meets the (...)
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  • Varieties of Parity.Ulrich E. Stegmann - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (6):903-918.
    A central idea of developmental systems theory is ‘parity’ or ‘symmetry’ between genes and non-genetic factors of development. The precise content of this idea remains controversial, with different authors stressing different aspects and little explicit comparisons among the various interpretations. Here I characterise and assess several influential versions of parity.
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  • How the Techniques of Molecular Biology Are Developed From Natural Systems.Isobel Ronai - unknown
    A striking characteristic of the highly successful techniques in molecular biology is that they are derived from natural systems. RNA interference, for example, utilises a mechanism that evolved in eukaryotes to destroy foreign nucleic acid. Other examples include restriction enzymes, the polymerase chain reaction, green fluorescent protein and CRISPR-Cas. I propose that biologists exploit natural molecular mechanisms for their effectors’ activity and biological specificity. I also show that the developmental trajectory of novel techniques in molecular biology, such as RNAi, is (...)
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