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Venomous Dinosaurs and Rear-Fanged Snakes: Homology and Homoplasy Characterized

Authors
  • Currie, Adrian Mitchell1
  • 1 Australia National University, c/o RSSS Philosophy Department, Coombs (bldg 9), Canberra, 2601, Australia , Canberra (Australia)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Erkenntnis
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Sep 15, 2013
Volume
79
Issue
3
Pages
701–727
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10670-013-9533-5
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

I develop an account of homology and homoplasy drawing on their use in biological inference and explanation. Biologists call on homology and homoplasy to infer character states, support adaptationist explanations, identify evolutionary novelties and hypothesize phylogenetic relationships. In these contexts, the concepts must be understood phylogenetically and kept separate: as they play divergent roles, overlap between the two ought to be avoided. I use these considerations to criticize an otherwise attractive view defended by Gould, Hall, and Ramsey & Peterson. By this view, homology and homoplasy can only be delineated qua some level of description, and some homoplasies (parallelisms) are counted as homologous. I develop an account which retains the first, but rejects the second, aspect of that view. I then characterize parallelisms and convergences in terms of their causal role. By the Strict Continuity account, homology and homoplasy are defined phylogenetically and without overlaps, meeting my restriction. Convergence and parallelisms are defined as two types of homoplasy: convergent homoplasies are largely constrained by external factors, while parallelisms are due to internal constraints.

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