Genes in Development

Re-reading the Molecular Paradigm

Genes in Development

Science and Cultural Theory

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Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 27 figures Published: January 2006

Medicine and Health, Science and Technology Studies > Philosophy of Science

In light of scientific advances such as genomics, predictive diagnostics, genetically engineered agriculture, nuclear transfer cloning, and the manipulation of stem cells, the idea that genes carry predetermined molecular programs or blueprints is pervasive. Yet new scientific discoveries—such as rna transcripts of single genes that can lead to the production of different compounds from the same pieces of dna—challenge the concept of the gene alone as the dominant factor in biological development. Increasingly aware of the tension between certain empirical results and interpretations of those results based on the orthodox view of genetic determinism, a growing number of scientists urge a rethinking of what a gene is and how it works. In this collection, a group of internationally renowned scientists present some prominent alternative approaches to understanding the role of dna in the construction and function of biological organisms.

Contributors discuss alternatives to the programmatic view of dna, including the developmental systems approach, methodical culturalism, the molecular process concept of the gene, the hermeneutic theory of description, and process structuralist biology. None of the approaches cast doubt on the notion that dna is tremendously important to biological life on earth; rather, contributors examine different ideas of how dna should be represented, evaluated, and explained. Just as ideas about genetic codes have reached far beyond the realm of science, the reconceptualizations of genetic theory in this volume have broad implications for ethics, philosophy, and the social sciences.

Contributors. Thomas Bürglin, Brian C. Goodwin, James Griesemer, Paul Griffiths, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Evelyn Fox Keller, Gerd B. Müller, Eva M. Neumann-Held, Stuart A. Newman, Susan Oyama, Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, Sahotra Sarkar, Jackie Leach Scully, Gerry Webster, Ulrich Wolf


“A stellar collection of papers which convey the range and depth of ferment and revolution in evolutionary theory.” — Natural Genesis

"This book metaphorically drops a stick of dynamite down the center of the DNA double-helix spiral. . . Genes in Development will become a standard text in the field for both students and scientists at the highest level of research. I also believe it will be a gold mine for science writers and journalists who are the intermediaries between the scientist’s laboratories and our lounge rooms.” — Rob Harle, Leonardo Reviews

“The rich scientific knowledge about the genetic basis of life and it complex involvement in the life of individuals and populations is highly relevant to our worldview. Genes in Development helps to bring understandings of the conceptual and philosophical implications of molecular genetics up to date.” — Werner Arber, Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Emeritus Professor of Molecular Microbiology, University of Basel

“Together the essays in Genes in Development give lively voice to many of the current alternatives to genetic reductionism. Well-known figures from the debates of the past two decades are represented alongside a good number of emerging scholars.” — Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eva M. Neumann-Held is Research Assistant and Lecturer in Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Dortmund in Germany.

Christoph Rehmann-Sutter is Assistant Professor for Ethics in Biosciences and Biotechnology at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction / Eva M. Neumann-Held and Christoph Rehmann-Sutter 1

I. Empirical Approaches

1. Genome Analysis and Developmental Biology: The Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a Model System / Thomas R. Burglin 15

2. Genes and Form: Inherency in the Evolution of Developmental Mechanisms / Stuart A. Newman and Gerd B. Muller 38

II. Looking Back into History

3. From Genes as Determinants to DNA as Resource: Historical Notes on Development and Genetics / Sahotra Sarkar 77

III. Theorizing Genes

4. The Origin of Species: A Structuralist Approach / Gerry Webster and Brian C. Goodwin 99

5. On the Problem of the Molecular versus the Organismic Approach in Biology / Ulrich Wolf 135

6. Genes, Development, and Semiosis / Jesper Hoffmeyer 152

7. The Fearless Vampire Conservator: Philip Kitcher, Genetic Determinism, and the Informational Gene / Paul E. Griffiths 175

8. Genetics from an Evolutionary Process Perspective / James Griesemer 199

9. Genes-Causes-Codes: Deciphering DNA’s Ontological Privilege / Eva M. Newmann-Held 238

10. Boundaries and (Constructive) Interaction / Susan Oyama 272

11. Beyond the Gene but Beneath the Skin / Evelyn Fox Keller 290

12. Poiesis and Praxis: Two Modes of Understanding Development / Christoph Rehmann-Sutter 313

IV. Social and Ethical Implications

13. Developmental Emergence, Genes, and Responsible Science / Brian C. Goodwin 337

14. Nothing Like a Gene / Jackie Leach Scully 349

Contributors 365

Index 369
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3667-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3656-3
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