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Cause and effect in biology revisited: Is Mayr’s proximate-ultimate dichotomy still useful?

Laland, Kevin; Sterelny, Kim; Odling-Smee, John; Hoppitt, William and Uller, Tobias LU (2011) In Science 334(6062). p.1512-1516
Abstract
Fifty years ago, Ernst Mayr published a hugely influential paper on the nature of causation in biology, in which he distinguished between proximate and ultimate causes. Mayr equated proximate causation with immediate factors (for example, physiology) and ultimate causation with evolutionary explanations (for example, natural selection). He argued that proximate and ultimate causes addressed different questions and were not alternatives. Mayr's account of causation remains widely accepted today, with both positive and negative ramifications. Several current debates in biology (for example, over evolution and development, niche construction, cooperation, and the evolution of language) are linked by a common axis of acceptance/rejection of... (More)
Fifty years ago, Ernst Mayr published a hugely influential paper on the nature of causation in biology, in which he distinguished between proximate and ultimate causes. Mayr equated proximate causation with immediate factors (for example, physiology) and ultimate causation with evolutionary explanations (for example, natural selection). He argued that proximate and ultimate causes addressed different questions and were not alternatives. Mayr's account of causation remains widely accepted today, with both positive and negative ramifications. Several current debates in biology (for example, over evolution and development, niche construction, cooperation, and the evolution of language) are linked by a common axis of acceptance/rejection of Mayr's model of causation. We argue that Mayr's formulation has acted to stabilize the dominant evolutionary paradigm against change but may now hamper progress in the biological sciences (Less)
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author
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Science
volume
334
issue
6062
pages
1512 - 1516
publisher
The American Association for the Advancement of Science
external identifiers
  • scopus:83755169498
ISSN
1095-9203
DOI
10.1126/science.1210879
language
English
LU publication?
no
id
0fcc7e4a-1b3a-4c27-b47a-599a0565b9c9 (old id 4738992)
date added to LUP
2014-11-10 10:53:07
date last changed
2017-10-29 03:02:06
@article{0fcc7e4a-1b3a-4c27-b47a-599a0565b9c9,
  abstract     = {Fifty years ago, Ernst Mayr published a hugely influential paper on the nature of causation in biology, in which he distinguished between proximate and ultimate causes. Mayr equated proximate causation with immediate factors (for example, physiology) and ultimate causation with evolutionary explanations (for example, natural selection). He argued that proximate and ultimate causes addressed different questions and were not alternatives. Mayr's account of causation remains widely accepted today, with both positive and negative ramifications. Several current debates in biology (for example, over evolution and development, niche construction, cooperation, and the evolution of language) are linked by a common axis of acceptance/rejection of Mayr's model of causation. We argue that Mayr's formulation has acted to stabilize the dominant evolutionary paradigm against change but may now hamper progress in the biological sciences},
  author       = {Laland, Kevin and Sterelny, Kim and Odling-Smee, John and Hoppitt, William and Uller, Tobias},
  issn         = {1095-9203},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {6062},
  pages        = {1512--1516},
  publisher    = {The American Association for the Advancement of Science},
  series       = {Science},
  title        = {Cause and effect in biology revisited: Is Mayr’s proximate-ultimate dichotomy still useful?},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1210879},
  volume       = {334},
  year         = {2011},
}