lecture2 - BioNB 221: Lecture 2 Sept. 1, 2008 Lecture 2:...

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BioNB 221: Lecture 2 Sept. 1, 2008 Page 1 Lecture 2: Levels of Analysis Professor Paul Sherman This third “toolbox” lecture and the associated reading assignment develops and illustrates a pluralistic framework for asking and answering questions in biology. A. Two general types of questions: 1. Proximate, or immediate cause questions ("How does a behavior occur?") 2. Ultimate, or long-term cause questions ("Why does a behavior occur?") B. Within each of these general types of questions there are two "levels" of answers. These are termed levels of analysis. Type of Question Level of Analysis Proximate Causation or "How?" Questions 1. Mechanisms (Physiological, Cognitive) 2. Ontogenetic Processes Ultimate Causation or "Why?" Questions 3. Effects on Fitness 4. Evolutionary Origins C. There are four general types of answers to questions of the form "What causes animal A to exhibit trait x?" 1. Mechanistic (how does it work physiologically? cognitively?) 2. Ontogenetic (how does it develop during an individual's lifetime?) 3. Fitness effects (why is it maintained by natural selection?) 4. Origination (what were its evolutionary antecedent behaviors? when did it first appear in evolutionary time?) These different answers are complementary and not mutually exclusive. An answer at one level
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lecture2 - BioNB 221: Lecture 2 Sept. 1, 2008 Lecture 2:...

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