"By combining recent advances in the physical sciences with some of the novel ideas, techniques, and data of modern biology, this book attempts to achieve a new and different kind of evolutionary synthesis. I found it to be challenging, fascinating, infuriating, and provocative, but certainly not dull."--James H, Brown, University of New Mexico "This book is unquestionably mandatory reading not only for every living biologist but for generations of biologists to come."--Jack P. Hailman, Animal Behaviour , review of the (...) first edition "An important contribution to modern evolutionary thinking. It fortifies the place of Evolutionary Theory among the other well-established natural laws."--R.Gessink, TAXON. (shrink)
Perhaps because of it implications for our understanding of human nature, recent philosophy of biology has seen what might be the most dramatic work in the philosophies of the ”special” sciences. This drama has centered on evolutionary theory, and in the second edition of this textbook, Elliott Sober introduces the reader to the most important issues of these developments. With a rare combination of technical sophistication and clarity of expression, Sober engages both the higher level of theory and (...) the direct implications for such controversial issues as creationism, teleology, nature versus nurture, and sociobiology. Above all, the reader will gain from this book a firm grasp of the structure of evolutionary theory, the evidence for it, and the scope of its explanatory significance. (shrink)
One way to understand science is as a selection process. David Hull, one of the dominant figures in contemporary philosophy of science, sets out in this 2001 volume a general analysis of this selection process that applies equally to biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens, operant learning, and social and conceptual change in science. Hull aims to distinguish between those characteristics that are contingent features of selection and those that are essential. Science and Selection (...) brings together many of David Hull's most important essays on selection in one accessible volume. (shrink)
Philosophy can shed light on mathematical modeling and the juxtaposition of modeling and empirical data. This paper explores three philosophical traditions of the structure of scientific theory—Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic—to show that each illuminates mathematical modeling. The Pragmatic View identifies four critical functions of mathematical modeling: (1) unification of both models and data, (2) model fitting to data, (3) mechanism identification accounting for observation, and (4) prediction of future observations. Such facets are explored using a recent exchange between two (...) groups of mathematical modelers in plant biology. Scientific debate can arise from different modeling philosophies. (shrink)
This short and highly accessible volume opens up the subject of the philosophy of biology to professionals and to students in both disciplines. The text covers briefly and clearly all of the pertinent topics in the subject, dealing with both human and non-human issues, and quite uniquely surveying not only scholars in the English-speaking world but others elsewhere, including the Eastern block. As molecular biologists peer ever more deeply into life’s mysteries, there are those who fear that such (...) ‘reductionism’ conceals more than it reveals, and there are those who complain that the new techniques threaten the physical safety of us all. As students of evolution apply their new-found understanding to our own species, some people think that this is merely an excuse for racist and sexist propaganda, and others worry that the whole exercise blatantly violates the religious beliefs many of us hold dear. These controversies are the joint concern of biologists and philosophers—of those whose task it is to study the theoretical and moral foundations of knowledge. The comprehensive and fully up-to-date bibliography makes this an invaluable and indispensable guide. (shrink)
No other scientific theory has had as tremendous an impact on our understanding of the world as Darwin's theory as outlined in his Origin of Species, yet from the very beginning the theory has been subject to controversy. The Evolution of Darwinism focuses on three issues of debate - the nature of selection, the nature and scope of adaptation, and the question of evolutionary progress. It traces the varying interpretations to which these issues were subjected from the beginning and (...) the fierce contemporary debates that still rage on and explores their implications for the greatest questions of all: Where we come from, who we are and where we might be heading. Written in a clear and non-technical style, this book will be of use as a textbook for students in the philosophy of science who need to become familiar with the background to the debates about evolution. (shrink)
The formal systems of logic have ordinarily been regarded as independent of biology, but recent developments in evolutionary theory suggest that biology and logic may be intimately interrelated. In this book, William Cooper outlines a theory of rationality in which logical law emerges as an intrinsic aspect of evolutionary biology. This biological perspective on logic, though at present unorthodox, could change traditional ideas about the reasoning process. Cooper examines the connections between logic and evolutionary biology and (...) illustrates how logical rules are derived directly from evolutionary principles, and therefore have no independent status of their own. Laws of decision theory, utility theory, induction, and deduction are reinterpreted as natural consequences of evolutionary processes. Cooper's connection of logical law to evolutionary theory ultimately results in a unified foundation for an evolutionary science of reason. It will be of interest to professionals and students of philosophy of science, logic, evolutionary theory, and cognitive science. (shrink)
Contrairement à une croyance trop répandue, le darwinisme et son prolongement au XXe siècle — le néo-darwinisme — ne portent pas sur une idée de l'évolution fondée sur la simple notion de « la survie du plus apte ». Si la théorie de la sélection naturelle est partie intégrante du néo-darwinisme, plusieurs de ses fondateurs seront en quête d'une conception beaucoup plus généreuse, pleine et compréhensive de l'évolution. En réalité, la révolution dite darwinienne s'insère au coeur d'une révolution intellectuelle beaucoup (...) plus importante : la révolution transformiste. Avant d'être des darwiniens, de dignes représentants de cette mouvance s'afficheront comme étant des transformistes. Cela signifie que, en plus des mécanismes de l'évolution biologique, d'autres éléments tout aussi cruciaux seront pris en considération`, dans l'élaboration d'une véritable synthèse évolutionniste : les rapports entre l'évolution biologique et l'évolution cosmique ; les interrogations portant sur la question d'une possible direction évolutive ; l'enseignement à tirer pour l'homme de sa place et de son rôle dans la nature. A la croisée de l'histoire, de la philosophie et de la science, cet ouvrage cherche à démontrer, à travers l'analyse des travaux de plusieurs néo-darwiniens de premier plan, que la révolution darwinienne demeurera incomplète aussi longtemps que la révolution transformiste le restera. (shrink)
Some central ideas associated with developmental systems theory are outlined for non-specialists. These ideas concern the nature of biological development, the alleged distinction between “genetic” and “environmental” traits, the relations between organism and environment, and evolutionary processes. I also discuss some criticisms of the DST approach.
Biology seems to present local and transitory regularities rather than immutable laws. To account for these historically constituted regularities and to distinguish them from mathematical invariants, Montévil and Mossio have proposed to speak of constraints. In this article we analyse the causal power of these constraints in the evolution of biodiversity, i.e., their positivity, but also the modality of their action on the directions taken by evolution. We argue that to fully account for the causal power of (...) these constraints on evolution, they must be thought of in terms of normativity. In this way, we want to highlight two characteristics of the evolutionary constraints. The first, already emphasised as reported by Gould, is that these constraints are both produced by and producing biological evolution and that this circular causation creates true novelties. The second is that this specific causality, which generates unpredictability in evolution, stems not only from the historicity of biological constraints, but also from their internalisation through the practices of living beings. (shrink)
Development and Evolution surveys and illuminates the key themes of rapidly changing fields and areas of controversy that are redefining the theory and philosophy of biology. It continues Stanley Salthe's investigation of evolutionary theory, begun in his influential book Evolving Hierarchical Systems, while negating the implicit philosophical mechanisms of much of that work. Here Salthe attempts to reinitiate a theory of biology from the perspective of development rather than from that of evolution, recognizing the applicability (...) of general systems thinking to biological and social phenomena and pointing toward a non-Darwinian and even a postmodern biology. Salthe's intent is nothing less than to provide, with this alternative paradigm, a position from which the deconstruction of the Bacononian/Cartesian/Newtonian/Darwinian/Comptian tradition becomes possible, while at the same time suggesting in its place an organic view predicated upon Aristotelian and Hegelian antecedents. In the face of complexity, we must alter our view of the universe as inherently ordered and predictable; order develops, but at great cost. Explorating of the nature of change in a complex world, Salthe brings together such disparate areas as hierarchy theory, information theory, and semiotics in illuminating ways as he seeks a mode of answering questions as to the nature of complexity and as to how we might derive information from the interactions of the parts of a contextualized developing system. Stanley N. Salthe, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, is a Visiting Scientist in Biological Sciences at Binghamton University. (shrink)
In this essay, we discuss Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka’s The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul from an interdisciplinary perspective. Constituting perhaps the longest treatise on the evolution of consciousness, Ginsburg and Jablonka unite their expertise in neuroscience and biology to develop a beautifully Darwinian account of the dawning of subjective experience. Though it would be impossible to cover all its content in a short book review, here we provide a critical evaluation of their two key ideas—the (...) role of Unlimited Associative Learning in the evolution of, and detection of, consciousness and a metaphysical claim about consciousness as a mode of being—in a manner that will hopefully overcome some of the initial resistance of potential readers to tackle a book of this length. (shrink)
In recent years, the relation between contemporary academic philosophy and evolutionary theory has become ever more active, multifaceted, and productive. The connection is an active two-way street. In one direction, philosophers of biology make significant contributions to theoretical discussions about the nature of evolution. In the other direction, a broader group of philosophers appeal to Darwinian selection in an attempt to illuminate traditional philosophical puzzles. In grappling with these questions, this interdisciplinary collection includes cutting-edge examples from both (...) directions of traffic. The 30 contributions, written exclusively for this volume, are divided into six sections: _The Nature of Selection_, _Evolution and Information_, _Human Nature_, _Evolution and Mind_, _Evolution and Ethics_, and _Evolution, Aesthetics, and Art_. Many of the contributing philosophers and psychologists are international leaders in their fields. (shrink)
The anti-reductionist character of the recent philosophy of biology and the dynamic development of the science of emergent properties prove that the time is ripe to reintroduce the thought of Aristotle, the first advocate of a “top-down” approach in life-sciences, back into the science/philosophy debate. His philosophy of nature provides profound insights particularly in the context of the contemporary science of evolution, which is still struggling with the questions of form, teleology, and the role of (...) chance in evolutionary processes. However, although Aristotle is referenced in the evolutionary debate, a thorough analysis of his theory of hylomorphism and the classical principle of causality which he proposes is still needed in this exchange. Such is the main concern of the first part of the present article which shows Aristotle’s metaphysics of substance as an open system, ready to incorporate new hypothesis of modern and contemporary science. The second part begins with the historical exploration of the trajectory from Darwin to Darwinism regarded as a metaphysical position. This exploration leads to an inquiry into the central topics of the present debate in the philosophy of evolutionary biology. It shows that Aristotle’s understanding of species, teleology, and chance – in the context of his fourfold notion of causality – has a considerable explanatory power which may enhance our understanding of the nature of evolutionary processes. This fact may inspire, in turn, a retrieval of the classical theology of divine action, based on Aristotelian metaphysics, in the science/theology dialogue. The aim of the present article is to prepare a philosophical ground for such project. (shrink)
Covering some of science's most divisive topics, such as philosophical issues in genetics and evolution, the philosophy of biology also encompasses more traditional philosophical questions, such as free will, essentialism, and nature vs nurture. Here, Samir Okasha outlines the core issues with which contemporary philosophy of biology is engaged.
Biological market theory has in recent years become an important part of the social evolutionist’s toolkit. This article discusses the explanatory potential and pitfalls of biological market theory in the context of big picture accounts of the evolution of human cooperation and morality. I begin by assessing an influential account that presents biological market dynamics as a key driver of the evolution of fairness norms in humans. I argue that this account is problematic for theoretical, empirical, and conceptual (...) reasons. After mapping the evidential and explanatory limits of biological market theory, I suggest that it can nevertheless fill a lacuna in an alternative account of hominin evolution. Trade on a biological marketplace can help explain why norm-based cooperation did not break down when our late-Pleistocene ancestors entered new, challenging social and economic environments. (shrink)
• "Conditions for Evolution by Natural Selection " (2007) . Evolution by natural selection is usually said to require three ingredients: variation, heredity, and fitness differences. But things are not so simple. Here I discuss various problem cases and their consequences.
Elliott Sober is one of the leading philosophers of science and is a former winner of the Lakatos Prize, the major award in the field. This new collection of essays will appeal to a readership that extends well beyond the frontiers of the philosophy of science. Sober shows how ideas in evolutionary biology bear in significant ways on traditional problems in philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, and metaphysics. Amongst the topics addressed are psychological egoism, solipsism, and (...) the interpretation of belief and utterance, empiricism, Ockham's razor, causality, essentialism, and scientific laws. The collection will prove invaluable to a wide range of philosophers, primarily those working in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and epistemology. (shrink)
A persisting question in the philosophy of animal minds is which nonhuman animals share our capacity for episodic memory. Many authors address this question by primarily defining EM, trying to capture its seemingly unconstrained flexibility and independence from environmental and bodily constraints. EM is therefore often opposed to clearly context-bound capacities like tracking environmental regularities and forming associations. The problem is that conceptualizing EM in humans first, and then reconstructing how humans evolved this capacity, provides little constraints for understanding (...) the evolution of memory abilities in other species: it defines “genuine” EM as independent from animals’ evolved sensorimotor setup and learning abilities. In this paper, I define memory in terms of perceptual learning: remembering means “knowing what to do in later situations because of past experience in similar earlier situations”. After that, I explain how episodic memory can likewise be explained in terms of perceptual learning. For this, we should consider that the information in animals’ ecological niches is much richer than has hitherto been presumed. Accordingly, instead of asking “given that environmental stimuli provide insufficient information about the cache, what kind of representation does the jay need?” we ask “given that the animal performs in this way, what kind of information is available in the environment?” My aim is not to give a complete alternative explanation of EM; rather, it is to provide conceptual and methodological tools for more zoocentric comparative EM-research. (shrink)
Does natural selection act primarily on individual organisms, on groups, on genes, or on whole species? The question of levels of selection - on which biologists and philosophers have long disagreed - is central to evolutionary theory and to the philosophy of biology. Samir Okasha's comprehensive analysis gives a clear account of the philosophical issues at stake in the current debate.
Nelson and Winter’s An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982) was the foundational work of what has become the thriving sub-discipline of evolutionary economics. In attempting to develop an alternative to neoclassical economics, the authors looked to borrow basic ideas from biology, in particular a concept of economic “natural selection.” However, the evolutionary models they construct in their seminal work are in many respects quite different from the models of evolutionary biology. There is no reproduction in any usual (...) sense, “mutation” is directed as opposed to blind, and there is no meaningful distinction between phenotype and genotype. Despite these substantial departures from the conceptions of evolutionary biology, I argue that the “evolutionary” economics of Nelson and Winter is indeed a legitimate extension of Darwinian evolutionary principles to a novel domain, and that the traditional conception of evolution by natural selection must be revised. The novel features of evolutionary economics models reflect the distinctive theoretical requirements faced by economists. I further contend that reproduction, heredity, blind variation, and the genotype/phenotype distinction are all inessential to evolutionary theory, and that their role in evolutionary biology is a domain-specific feature of biological theory. (shrink)
This major new series in the philosophy of science aims to provide a new generation of textbooks for the subject. The series will not only offer fresh treatments of core topics in the theory and methodology of scientific knowledge, but also introductions to newer areas of the discipline. Furthermore, the series will cover topics in current science that raise significant foundational issues both for scientific theory and for philosophy more generally. Biology raises distinct questions of its own (...) not only for philosophy of science, but for metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. This comprehensive new textbook for a rapidly growing field of study provides students new to the subject with an up-to-date presentation of the key philosophical issues. Care is taken throughout to keep the technicalities accessible to the non-biologist but without sacrificing the philosophical subtleties. The first part of the book covers the philosophical challenges posed by evolution and evolutionary biology, beginning with Darwin's central argument in the Origin of the Species. Individual chapters cover natural selection, the selfish gene, alternative units of selection, developmental systems theory, adaptionism and issues in macroevolution. The second part of the book examines philosophical questions arising in connection with biological traits, function, nature and nurture, and biological kinds. The third part of the book examines metaphysical questions, biology's relation with the traditional concerns of philosophy of science, and how evolution has been introduced into epistemological debates. The final part considers the relevance of biology to questions about ethics, religion and human nature. (shrink)
Christians frequently resist evolutionary theory, believing it to be incompatible with the core values of their tradition. But what exactly are the tensions between evolution and religious faith in the area of human morality? Evolution and Ethics examines the burning questions of human morality from the standpoint of Christian thought and contemporary biology, asking where the two perspectives diverge and where they may complement one another. -/- Representing a significant dialogue between world-class scientists, philosophers, and theologians, this (...) volume explores the central features of biological and religious accounts of human morality, introducing the leading theories and locating the key points of contention. Central to these discussions are the questions of whether human actions are ever genuinely selfless, whether there is something in the moral life that transcends biological function, and whether one can sensibly speak of an overall purpose to the course of evolution. (shrink)
The hologenome concept of evolution is a hypothesis about the evolution of animals and plants. It asserts that the evolution of animals and plants was partially triggered by their interactions with their symbiotic microbiomes. In that vein, the hologenome concept posits that the holobiont (animal host + symbionts of the microbiome) is a unit of selection. -/- The hologenome concept has been severely criticized on the basis that selection on holobionts would only be possible if there were (...) a tight transgenerational host-genotype-to-symbiont-genotype connection. As our current evidence suggests that this is not the case for most of the symbiont species that compose the microbiome of animals and plants, the opportunity for holobiont selection is very low in relation to the opportunity for selection on each of the species that compose the host microbiome. Therefore, holobiont selection will always be disrupted ‘from below’, by selection on each of the species that compose the microbiome. -/- This thesis constitutes a conceptual effort to defend philosophically the hologenome concept. I argue that the criticism according to which holobiont selection requires tight transgenerational host-genotype-to-symbiont-genotype connection is grounded on a metaphysical view of the world according to which the biological hierarchy needs to be nested, such that each new level of selection includes every entity from below. Applied to hologenomes, it entails that the hologenome is a collection of genomes, and selection of hologenomes is assumed to entail cospeciation of the host with the species that constitute its microbiome. -/- Against that interpretation, I propose the ‘stability of traits’ account, according to which hologenome evolution is the result of the action of natural selection in a non-nested hierarchical world. In that vein, hologenome evolution does not entail cospeciation, and thus it does not require tight transgenerational host-genotype-to-symbiont-genotype connection. By embracing a multilevel selection perspective, I argue that hologenome evolution results from the simultaneous action of natural selection on each of the lineages that compose the microbiome, and on the assemblage composed by the host genome plus the functional traits of its microbiome. Hologenome selection occurs when the evolution of the traits of the microbiome result from their effects on the fitness of the host, and it can take the form of multilevel selection 1, or multilevel selection 2. In both cases, hologenome selection entails the evolution of microbiome traits, as well as evolution of the host genome, rather than cospeciation of lineages. (shrink)
Description of the biologicalhierarchy of the organism has been extendedhere to included the evolutionary andecological sub-hierarchies with theirrespective levels in order to give a completehierarchical description of life. These newdescriptions include direction of formation,types of constraints, and dual levels. Constraints are produced at the macromolecularlevel of genes/proteins, some of which (a) aredescendent restraints which hold a hierarchytogether and others (b) interact horizontallywith selective agents at corresponding levelsof the niche. The organism is a dual levelconstrained by both the ecologicalsub-hierarchy (survival) and (...) evolutionarysub-hierarchy (fitness) while serving as thehighest level of the specializationsub-hierarchy, therefore, it is unique inbelonging to three sub-hierarchies. Organismsexperience birth, sometimes death, andparticipate in evolution. Birth of an organismis realized when a cell is removed from theconstraints of the organism and assumes itsown organismal constraints. Death occurs withthe cessation of protein synthesis becauseproteins and their products constitutecomponents at high levels of the hierarchy. Selection is of two types, natural selection,involving adaptive traits interacting withfeatures in a niche, and hierarchicalselection, requiring traits to be compatiblewith existing hierarchical constraints. (shrink)
This book offers to the international reader a collection of original articles of some of the most skillful historians and philosophers of biology currently working in Latin American universities. During the last decades, increasing attention has been paid in Latin America to the history and philosophy of biology, but since many local authors prefer to write in Spanish or in Portuguese, their ideas have barely crossed the boundaries of the continent. This volume aims to remedy this state (...) of things, providing a good sample of this production to the English speaking readers, bringing together contributions from researchers working in Brazilian, Argentinean, Chilean, Colombian and Mexican universities. The stress on the regional provenance of the authors is not intended to suggest the existence of something like a Latin American history and philosophy of biology, supposedly endowed with distinctive features. On the contrary, the editors firmly believe that advances in this field can be achieved only by stimulating the integration in the international debate. Based on this assumption, the book focuses on two topics, life and evolution, and presents a selection of contributions addressing issues such as the history of the concept of life, the philosophical reflection on life manipulation and life extension, the structure and development of evolutionary theory as well as human evolution. Life and Evolution – Latin American Essays on the History and Philosophy of Biology will provide the international reader with a rather complete picture of the ongoing research in the history and philosophy of biology in Latin America, offering a snapshot of this dynamic community. It will also contribute to contextualize and develop the debate concerning life and evolution, and the relation between the two phenomena. (shrink)