Developmental systems theory emphasizes the interrelationships of organisms and environments. Genes aren’t regarded as predetermined trajectories that will inevitably unfold unless some environmental glitch gets in the way. Rather, genes and environments interact in complex ways, leading to any number of outcomes. The same genotype can manifest itself in very different ways phenotypically depending on variations in the local situation. Individual organisms don’t develop in isolation as autonomous entities; they must occupy a particular niche within their species, their local community, their family. Environmental variables like climate fluctuation, food scarcity, and population densities of one’s own species as well as predator/prey species can exert profound effects on the individual organism’s life course. But organisms don’t just adapt to their environments. Organisms actively shape their environments, building nests, laying down trails, pollenating plants, affecting the populations of predator/prey animals in the vicinity. While many kinds of organisms might share a common space, they don’t really share a common environment. Features of the world that afford safety and nourishment for one species might present a threat to another species while being met with complete indifference by a third species. In short, neither the organism nor the environment can be considered in isolation; they are interdependent.
The same sorts of insights hold for objects and realities. Objects aren’t hard-programmed to become that which their component parts and primal causative forces predetermine them to be. They follow idiosyncratic trajectories, based to a large degree on local differences in the texture of the reality they occupy. Each object is different from every other object. Still, objects do cluster themselves into categories that reflect real shared similarities with one another and real systematic differences from other kinds of objects. While all objects occupy the same material universe, they don’t all occupy the same reality. Some objects are affected by differentiating forces to which other objects remain invulnerable. Similarly, different kinds of objects can effect different kinds of differences in their surroundings. If an object is a “difference that makes a difference,” then a reality for that object consists of those sorts of differentiating forces in which it participates. A real object and the reality it occupies are interdependent.