Causal Specificity, Biological Possibility and Non-parity about Genetic Causes


Several authors have used the notion of causal specificity in order to defend non-parity about genetic causes (Waters 2007, Woodward 2010, Weber 2017, forthcoming). Non-parity in this context is the idea that DNA and some other biomolecules that are often described as information-bearers by biologists play a unique role in life processes, an idea that has been challenged by Developmental Systems Theory (e.g., Oyama 2000). Indeed, it has proven to be quite difficult to state clearly what the alleged special role of genetic causes consists in. In this paper, I show that the set of biomolecules that are normally considered to be information-bearers (DNA, mRNA) can be shown to be the most specific causes of protein primary structure, provided that causal specificity is measured over a relevant space of biological possibilities, disregarding physical as well as logically possible states of the causal variables.

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Marcel Weber
University of Geneva


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