Egenis Seminar with Mr Robert Meunier 'Pluralism concerning traits. A case study in developmental biology'
SpeakersMr. Robert Meunier, Egenis Visiting Researcher from the European School of Molecular Medicine at the Campus IFOM-IEO, Milan, and University of Milan
University of Exeter,Egenis,Byrne House,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJRoom no: GF7, Byrne House
Time: 3:00 - 4:30 pmAbstract:
I will start by defending pluralism concerning traits or characters of organisms: Indefinitely many parts or properties can be recognized depending on the practical context in which humans look at organisms, including themselves. These contexts might be scientific disciplines like systematics, evolutionary ecology or developmental biology, but also other forms of human practice like agriculture, or the organization of social systems in which racial meanings become attached to human characters.In particular, I will then look at developmental biology. By analysing a developmental study in zebrafish, I will show that phenotypic traits play various roles even within one research programme. In this case there are descriptive traits, rooted in physiological and anatomical tradition, mutant phenotypes, which are operationalized and indicative of causal processes and complex physiological phenotypes that might constitute the interest of a particular line of research.What the case study is supposed to show is that categorization (in this case of traits) happens in a local semiotic economy in which some categories are well entrenched and others become entrenched ad hoc by fitting into a network of symbols. But it also shows that failing to distinguish between the different roles phenotypic traits play in developmental biology in particular can lead to a misunderstanding of the relation between genes and traits as it is construed in this discipline.