Volume 10, April 2017
Synthetic Biology and Natural Kinds
Homeostatic Property Cluster Theory in the Post-Genomic Era
In the life sciences, biologists and philosophers lack a unifying concept of species—one that will reconcile intuitive demarcations of taxa with the fluidity of phenotypes found in nature. One such attempt at solving this “species problem” is known as Homeostatic Property Cluster theory (HPC), which suggests that species are not defined by singular essences, but by clusters of properties that a species tends to possess. I contend that the arbitrary nature of HPC’s kind criteria would permit a biological brand of functionalism to inform species boundaries, thereby validating synthetic organisms as members of a species that do not belong.