biology

Analogy/Homology

Analogy/Homology

The concept of homology, or morphological correspondence, was the central tenet of philosophical anatomy. It was used to define structural similarity. Homologies, which are now defined in terms of evolution, were formerly interpreted in a transcendental sense. Whereas homologous parts are now considered to have descended from a common ancestor, in the pre-Darwinian era they were usually looked upon as evidence of an ideal pattern imposed on nature, or a blueprint in the mind of the creator.

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anosognosia

The tendency to ignore or sometimes even to deny that one's left arm or leg is paralyzed was termed anosognosia, ("unaware of illness") by the French neurologist Francois Babinski, who first observed it clinically in 1908. In anosognosia, the patient is unaware of or denies a paralyzed limb, and in hemianosognosia, the patient behaves as if half the body were nonexistent. The "counterfeit" limb is a milder version of anosognosia, where the limb seems less than real. Oliver Sachs describes how his paralyzed leg had "vanished, taking its place with it...The leg had vanished taking its 'past' away with it. I could no longer remember having a leg." (See Oliver Sachs, A Leg to Stand On, New York, 1984,) 

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antibodies

An Antibody is a large protein molecule which latches on to and neutralizes foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Each antibody acts only on a very specific target molecule, known as an antigen. (It can also coat microbes in a way to make them palatable to scavenger cells such as microphages.) 

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artifacts

artifact/ideas: The ideas embodied in material things: the increased crystallization of knowledge and practice in the physical structure of artifacts, in addition to mental structures. Through the combination and superimposition of task-relevant structure, artifacts came to embody kinds of knowledge that would be exceedingly difficult to represent mentally. (see Bruno Latour, "Visualization and Cognition: Thinking with eyes and hands." Knowledge and Society 6: 1-40, 1986.) (see tech philosophy for "the fabrication of scientific facts and technical artifacts." )

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character

While genes are usually thought to entail some direct causal consequence in the expression of a character, a central tenet of genetics is that a mutant locus or the normal allele does not "control a character," but is only a differential. The production of a character involves many genes. 

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coevolution

In coevolutionary processes, the fitness of one organism or species depends on the characteristics of the other organisms or species with which it interacts, while all simultaneously adapt and change." At every moment natural selection is operating to change the genetic composition of populations in response to the momentary environment, but as that composition changes it forces a concommittent change in the environment itself.

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Epigenesis/Preformation

Epigenesis/Preformation

One of the most important issues in the premodern biology of the 18th century was the struggle between preformationist and epigenetic theories of development. The preformationist view was that the adult organism was contained, already formed in miniature, in the sperm, and that development was the growth and solidification of this miniature being. Preformationists assumed that the germs of all living beings were preformed and had been since the Creation. Preformationism sought to maintain and secure--against the irritation posed by the complexity of organic phenomena--the claim for a thorough and rational determination of the material world. 

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exaptation

In many of his essays, Steven J. Gould has suggested complications or revisions to any simple version of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis. (see, for example Wonderful Life, an graphic account of some contingencies of natural history -- as opposed to any predictable, progressive process) He has also proposed a number of alternative concepts to simple adaptation. In "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm," ( Proceedings of the Royal Society of London , 205, 281-288) Gould and Lewontin warned against "naive adaptationism" in the explanation of traits that had emerged for other reasons. Using the dome and spandrels of the basilica of San Marco as an illustration, Gould and Lewontin showed that some traits have no specific function, but are present for reasons of architecture, development, or history. The triangular spaces of the spandrels at San Marco are simple solutions to the problem of filling in the spaces left by placing a dome on four arches. In themselves, they should not be called adaptations, as they serve no function on their own. (but they may become part of a "Bauplan.")

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Immune System

The immune system is engaged in a process of somatic selection. It is constantly distinguishing foreign molecules or bacteria, viruses, and even another person's skin from the molecules of an individual body, or soma. The well-spring of immunologic defense is scattered through the body in the tissues and organs of the lymphatic system and is carried out by a set of proteins called antibodies. The ultimate target of all immune responses is an antigen, which is usually a foreign molecule from a bacterium or other invader.

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mechanism/vitalism

The prestige of mechanistic physics after Newton led to an extended confrontation between the norms of physics and other areas of science such as biology and psychology. Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophystood as a classical prototype, or canon, by which to judge all subsequent science. Newton's great achievement was to have produced a mathematical theory of nature that provided general solutions based on a rational system of deduction and mathematical inference, coupled with experiment and critical observation. Newtonian mechanics established "universal laws" that explained the movements of the planets, the tides, and whose predictive powers were given an overwhelming demonstration with the appearance of Halley's comet, just as predicted, in 1758, long after both Halley and Newton were dead. Even today, the exploration of space is a straightforward application of classical gravitational mechanics. 

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memory

In Rewriting the Soul, Ian Hacking asks whether memory is the name of what once was called the soul. For Hacking, the Western moral tradition, encapsulated in the Delphic injunction to "know thyself," expresses a deeply rooted conviction that a self-knowledge is central to becoming a fully developed human being. In the modern area, this self-knowledge has increasingly focussed on issues of memory. 

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mind / brain

How does the physical brain give rise to the psychological mind? How do the laws of mental life emerge from the brain?

The hypothesis of all those who examine the brain as "organ of the mind" is that a close enough analysis of the workings of the brain would, if we also had the key to psychophysiology, lead to a knowledge of consciousness. The psychophysiological hypothesis, at least in its narrow version of it, seeks point-to-point mappings of brain, consciousness, and memory.

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Morphogenesis

Morphogenesis is the process by which the phenotype develops in time under the direction of the genotype
The explanation of morphogenesis requires a theory of the gene as well as theories for those properties of the organism revealed by experimental embryology and experimental morphology

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morphology

morphology

Morphology is an "account of form," an account that allows us a rational grasp of the morphe by making internal and external relations intelligible. It seeks to be a general theory of the formative powers of organic structure. The Pre-Darwinian project of rational morphology was to discover the "laws of form," some inherent necessity in the laws which governed morphological process. It sought to construct what was typical in the varieties of form into a system which should not be merely historically determined, but which should be intelligible from a higher and more rational standpoint. (Hans Driesch, 1914, p. 149)

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natural form

"Organic forms have a general character which distinguishes them from artificial ones.... We come then to conceive of organic form as something which is produced by the interaction of numerous forces which are balanced against one another in a near-equilibrium that has the character not of a precisely definable pattern but rather of a slightly fluid one, a rhythm...There is, in a human work of sculpture, no actual multitude of internal growth-forces which are balanced so as to issue in a near-equilibrium of a rhythmic character. We should therefore not expect that works of art will often arrive at the same type of form as we commonly find in the structures of living matter. Much more can we anticipate an influence of man's intellectualizing, pattern-making habit of simplification, diluted perhaps by an intrusion of unresolved detail." (Waddington (1951) in L.L. Whyte, ed. Aspects of Form) 

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