The phylogeny fallacy and the ontogeny fallacy

Adam Hochman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In 1990 Robert Lickliter and Thomas Berry identified the phylogeny fallacy, an empirically untenable dichotomy between proximate and evolutionary causation, which locates proximate causes in the decoding of 'genetic programs', and evolutionary causes in the historical events that shaped these programs. More recently, Lickliter and Hunter Honeycutt (Psychol Bull 129:819-835, 2003a) argued that Evolutionary Psychologists commit this fallacy, and they proposed an alternative research program for evolutionary psychology. For these authors the phylogeny fallacy is the proximate/evolutionary distinction itself, which they argue constitutes a misunderstanding of development, and its role in the evolutionary process. In this article I argue that the phylogeny fallacy should be relocated to an error of reasoning that this causal framework sustains: the conflation of proximate and evolutionary explanation. Having identified this empirically neutral form of the phylogeny fallacy, I identify its mirror image, the ontogeny fallacy. Through the lens of these fallacies I attempt to solve several outstanding problems in the debate that ensued from Lickliter and Honeycutt's provocative article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-612
Number of pages20
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The phylogeny fallacy and the ontogeny fallacy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this