The machine conception of the organism in development and evolution: A critical analysis

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  author =       "Daniel J. Nicholson",
  title =        "The machine conception of the organism in development
                 and evolution: A critical analysis",
  journal =      "Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C:
                 Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and
                 Biomedical Sciences",
  volume =       "48, Part B",
  pages =        "162--174",
  year =         "2014",
  ISSN =         "1369-8486",
  DOI =          "doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2014.08.003",
  URL =          "",
  abstract =     "This article critically examines one of the most
                 prevalent metaphors in contemporary biology, namely the
                 machine conception of the organism (MCO). Although the
                 fundamental differences between organisms and machines
                 make the MCO an inadequate metaphor for conceptualizing
                 living systems, many biologists and philosophers
                 continue to draw upon the MCO or tacitly accept it as
                 the standard model of the organism. The analysis
                 presented here focuses on the specific difficulties
                 that arise when the MCO is invoked in the contexts of
                 development and evolution. In developmental biology the
                 MCO underlies a logically incoherent model of ontogeny,
                 the genetic program, which serves to legitimate three
                 problematic theses about development: genetic animism,
                 neo-preformationism, and developmental computability.
                 In evolutionary biology the MCO is responsible for
                 grounding unwarranted theoretical appeals to the
                 concept of design as well as to the interpretation of
                 natural selection as an engineer, which promote a
                 distorted understanding of the process and products of
                 evolutionary change. Overall, it is argued that,
                 despite its heuristic value, the MCO today is impeding
                 rather than enabling further progress in our
                 comprehension of living systems.",
  keywords =     "genetic algorithms, genetic programming, Organism,
                 Machine, Metaphor, Genetic program, Design,

Genetic Programming entries for Daniel J Nicholson