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honed properties “constraints,” which connotes strong barriers, but it seems certain that these properties must exert some preferential influence or channeling effects at the start of every evolutionary departure. Such molecular attributes make possible the kinds of “facilitated variation” described by Gerhart and Kirschner (Chapter 3, this volume). Their perspective is both fully consistent with and complementary to the one sketched here.

The central point of this chapter, however, is that a knowledge of the network modules that constitute particular genetic networks, underlying specific developmental processes in particular organisms (hence, their morphological traits), can greatly enrich understanding of the ways in which particular genetic changes promote particular developmental changes. Furthermore, an appreciation of the generic properties of networks and the ways that they transmit effects along functional linear pathways can, when the knowledge of the composition of a network and its inputs and outputs is reliable, lead to predictions about the effects of mutations within network modules on eventual phenotypes. With this sort of analytical framework in place, evolutionary biology will possess a greater degree of predictive capability and potential for the falsification of hypotheses than has hitherto been possible.



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