Underdetermination and evidence in the developmental plasticity debate

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Kovaka, Karen
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conference paper description
I identify a controversial hypothesis in evolutionary biology called the plasticity-first hypothesis. I argue that the plasticity-first hypothesis is underdetermined and that the most popular means of studying the plasticity-first hypothesis are insufficient to confirm or disconfirm it. I offer a strategy for overcoming this problem. Researchers need to develop a richer middle range theory of plasticity-first evolution that allows them to identify distinctive empirical traces of the hypothesis. They can then use those traces to discriminate between rival explanations of evolutionary episodes. The best tools for developing such a middle range theory are experimental evolution and formal modeling.