Darwin's principles of divergence and natural selection: Why Fodor was almost right

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):256-268 (2012)
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In a series of articles and in a recent book, What Darwin Got Wrong, Jerry Fodor has objected to Darwin’s principle of natural selection on the grounds that it assumes nature has intentions.1 Despite the near universal rejection of Fodor’s argument by biologists and philosophers of biology (myself included),2 I now believe he was almost right. I will show this through a historical examination of a principle that Darwin thought as important as natural selection, his principle of divergence. The principle was designed to explain a phenomenon obvious to any observer of nature, namely, that animals and plants form a hierarchy of clusters. Theodosius Dobzhansky made this the motivating observation of his great synthesizing work, Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937): “the living world is not a single array of individuals in which any two variants are connected by a series of intergrades, but an array of more or less distinctly separate arrays, intermediates between which are absent or at least rare. . . Small..



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Robert Richards
University of Chicago

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References found in this work

Against Darwinism.Jerry Fodor - 2008 - Mind and Language 23 (1):1–24.
Darwin and the Political Economists: Divergence of Character.Silvan S. Schweber - 1980 - Journal of the History of Biology 13 (2):195-289.
Darwin's Keystone : The Principle of Divergence.David Kohn - 2009 - In Michael Ruse & Robert J. Richards (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the "Origin of Species". Cambridge University Press.
Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection and its Moral Purpose.Robert Richards - 2009 - In Michael Ruse & Robert J. Richards (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the "Origin of Species". Cambridge University Press.

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