Günter Wagner’s Homology, Genes, and Evolutionary Innovation (2014) collects and synthesizes a vast array of empirical data, theoretical models, and conceptual analysis to set out a progressive research program with a central theoretical commitment: the genetic theory of homology. This research program diverges from standard approaches in evolutionary biology, provides sharpened contours to explanations of the origin of novelty, and expands the conceptual repertoire of evolutionary developmental biology (Evo–devo). I concentrate on four aspects of the book in this essay review: (1) the genetic theory of homology and character identity networks; (2) the implications for how we explain evolutionary novelties; (3) the expanded set of concepts surrounding homology, and (4) the epistemological conflicts between Wagner’s viewpoint and functionally-oriented evolutionary biology, as well as differences with other Evo–devo researchers. Together these have ramifications for how we interpret different explanatory approaches to evolutionary phenomena and understand relationships between the usefulness of concepts and the reality they represent.
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© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
- Gene regulatory networks