Pre-class discussion: Metaphors

In Discussion on April 11, 2010 by Lynn Chiu

Hi all,

As a warm-up for our discussion on Tuesday, I’m opening a thread for pre-class discussions. This week we’re going to focus on two widespread metaphors describing the relation between the internal (genetic or “beneath the skin”) and external (or environmental) factors that determine organismic ontogeny and phylogeny.

These metaphors are, as described in Lewontin’s book “The Triple Helix”,

(1) the genetic blueprint metaphor (Chapter 1),

which concerns the development of organismic form


(2) the key-lock metaphor (Chapter 2),

which concerns the evolution of organismic form.

On Tuesday, we will attempt to identify the key components these metaphors and Lewontin’s arguments against them. Then we will discuss in detail the niche construction hypothesis (as proposed by Odeling-Smee, et. al. in their book: “Niche Construction: the neglected process in evolution”) and how it rejects the second metaphor.

Feel free to post your thoughts on these metaphors and we will include them into our discussion on Tuesday.



One Response to “Pre-class discussion: Metaphors”

  1. Especially looking forward to comments that connect prior discussions on models, etc., with this week’s topic!

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