The Role of Analogy in Adaptive Explanation
Cases of 'convergence' (traits which have independently evolved in two or more lineages) could play an important role in the construction and corroboration of adaptive hypotheses. In particular, they could inform us about the evolutionary histories of novel traits. However, there is a problem of causal depth in the use of analogies. Natural Selection's affect on phenotype is constrained by phylogenetic history to a degree that we are unfounded in projecting adaptive stories from one lineage to another. I will argue for two approaches to resolve this issue. First, by constraining our catchment area to closely related lineages we can control for developmental noise. Second, by integrating analogies into explanations which incorporate other streams of evidence or bootstrapping an analogous model across many instantiations, we can overcome the problem of causal depth.