Disciplinary Fields in the Life Sciences: Evolving Divides and Anchor Concepts by Alessandro Minelli

 

 

Recent and ongoing debates in biology and in the philosophy of biology reveal widespread dissatisfaction with the current definitions or circumscriptions, which are often vague or controversial, of key concepts such as the gene, individual, species, and homology, and even of whole disciplinary fields within the life sciences. To some extent, the long growing awareness of these conceptual issues and the contrasting views defended in their regard can be construed as a symptom of the need to revisit traditional unchallenged partitions between the specialist disciplines within the life sciences. I argue here that the current relationships between anchor disciplines (e.g., developmental biology, evolutionary biology, biology of reproduction) and nomadic concepts wandering between them is worth being explored from a reciprocal perspective, by selecting suitable anchor concepts around which disciplinary fields can flexibly move. Three examples are offered, focusing on generalized anchor concepts of generation (redefined in a way that suggests new perspectives on development and reproduction), organizational module (with a wide-ranging domain of application in comparative morphology, developmental biology, and evolutionary biology) and species as unit of representation of biological diversity (suggesting a taxonomic pluralism that must be managed with suitable adjustments of current nomenclature rules).

Read more here.