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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Historicity in biology Cyr Desjardins, Eric


Biology is often characterized as an historical science. Why and to what extent does history matter in biology? Overall, this analysis shows that biology is deeply historical. Using examples from various fields (evolution, ecology and development), I develop a theory of biological historicity starting from the idea that the most fundamental property of historical processes is their capacity to retain information from the past, which ultimately depends on the existence of divergent outcomes and a causal dependence between a process’ outcome and its past. Yet the conditions generating divergent outcomes and information preserving processes are numerous and can be illustrated in various ways. These are developed and clarified through the notions of historical contingency, path dependence, irreversibility, and generative entrenchment.

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