John Padgett

Paper #: 96-08-053

Buss (1987) and Fontana and Buss (1994) have cogently argued that biology’s Modern Synthesis of genetics and Darwinian evolution achieved its impressive advances at the cost of eliding a crucial middle step--the existence of organism (or, more generally, of organization). The distribution of genetic alleles is shaped by selection pressures on the phenotypical “carriers” of those alleles. But the existence of phenotype itself is never explained. As Fontana and Buss themselves put it: “A theory based on the dynamics of alleles, individuals and populations must necessarily assume the existence of these entities. Present theory tacitly assumes the prior existence of the entities whose features it is meant to explain” (1994:2).