Homology is a fundamental concept in biology. However, the metaphysical status of homology, especially whether a homolog is a part of an individual or a member of a natural kind, is still a matter of intense debate. The proponents of the individuality view of homology criticize the natural kind view of homology by pointing out that homologs are subject to evolutionary transformation, and natural kinds do not change in the evolutionary process. Conversely, some proponents of the natural kind view of homology argue that a homolog can be construed both as a part of an individual and a member of a natural kind. They adopt the Homeostatic Property Cluster (HPC) theory of natural kinds, and the theory seems to strongly support their construal. Note that this construal implies the acceptance of essentialism. However, looking back on the history of the concept of homology, we should not overlook the fact that the individuality view was proposed to reject the essentialist interpretation of homology. Moreover, the essentialist notions of natural kinds can, in our view, mislead biologists about the phenomena of homology. Consequently, we need a non-essentialist view of homology, which we name the “persistently reproducible module” (PRM) view. This view highlights both the individual-like and kind-like aspects of homologs while stripping down both essentialist and anti-essentialist interpretations of homology. In this article, we articulate the PRM view of homology and explain why it is recommended over the other two views.
Biological Theory – Springer Journals
Published: May 22, 2017
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