Biology & Philosophy

http://link.springer.com/journal/10539

List of Papers (Total 64)

Evolution of multicellularity: cheating done right

For decades Darwinian processes were framed in the form of the Lewontin conditions: reproduction, variation and differential reproductive success were taken to be sufficient and necessary. Since Buss (The evolution of individuality, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1987) and the work of Maynard Smith and Szathmary (The major transitions in evolution, Oxford University Press...

Paleobiology and philosophy

I offer four ways of distinguishing paleobiology from neontology, and from this develop a sketch of the philosophy of paleobiology. I then situate and describe the papers in the special issue Paleobiology and Philosophy, and reflect on the value and prospects of paleontology-focused philosophy.

Evidential reasoning in historical sciences: applying Toulmin schemes to the case of Archezoa

This article is a study of the role and use of evidence in the evaluation of claims in the historical sciences. In order to do this, I develop a “snapshot” approach to Toulmin schemas. This framework is applied to the case of Archezoa, an initially supported then eventually rejected hypothesis in evolutionary biology. From this case study, I criticize Cleland’s “smoking gun...

The evolutionary contingency thesis and evolutionary idiosyncrasies

Much philosophical progress has been made in elucidating the idea of evolutionary contingency in a recent re-burgeoning of the debate. However, additional progress has been impaired on three fronts. The first relates to its characterisation: the under-specification of various contingency claims has made it difficult to conceptually pinpoint the scope to which ‘contingency...

Synthetic philosophy

In this essay, I discuss Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds (hereafter From Bacteria) and Godfrey Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus and The Evolution of Intelligent Life (hereafter Other Minds) from a methodological perspective. I show that these both instantiate what I call ‘synthetic philosophy.’ They are both Darwinian philosophers of science who...

CRISPR: a new principle of genome engineering linked to conceptual shifts in evolutionary biology

The CRISPR-Cas systems of bacterial and archaeal adaptive immunity have become a household name among biologists and even the general public thanks to the unprecedented success of the new generation of genome editing tools utilizing Cas proteins. However, the fundamental biological features of CRISPR-Cas are of no lesser interest and have major impacts on our understanding of the...

How to use fitness landscape models for the analysis of collective decision-making: a case of theory-transfer and its limitations

There is considerable correspondence between theories and models used in biology and the social sciences. One type of model that is in use in both biology and the social sciences is the fitness landscape model. The properties of the fitness landscape model have been applied rather freely in the social domain. This is partly due to the versatility of the model, but it is also due...

Logical fallacies and invasion biology

Leading invasion biologists sometimes dismiss critics and criticisms of their field by invoking “the straw man” fallacy. Critics of invasion biology are also labelled as a small group of “naysayers” or “contrarians”, who are sometimes engaging in “science denialism”. Such unfortunate labels can be seen as a way to possibly suppress legitimate debates and dismiss or minimize...

Synthetic versus analytic approaches to protein and DNA structure determination

The structures of protein and DNA were discovered primarily by means of synthesizing component-level information about bond types, lengths, and angles, rather than analyzing X-ray diffraction photographs of these molecules. In this paper, I consider the synthetic and analytic approaches to exemplify alternative heuristics for approaching mid-twentieth-century macromolecular...

Gender as a historical kind: a tale of two genders?

Is there anything that members of each binary category of gender have in common? Even many non-essentialists find the lack of unity within a gender worrying as it undermines the basis for a common political agenda for women. One promising proposal for achieving unity is by means of a shared historical lineage of cultural reproduction with past binary models of gender (e.g. Bach...

Kuhnian revolutions in neuroscience: the role of tool development

The terms “paradigm” and “paradigm shift” originated in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn. A paradigm can be defined as the generally accepted concepts and practices of a field, and a paradigm shift its replacement in a scientific revolution. A paradigm shift results from a crisis caused by anomalies in a paradigm that reduce its usefulness to a field...

A Cladist is a systematist who seeks a natural classification: some comments on Quinn (2017)

In response to Quinn (Biol Philos, 2017.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-017-9577-z) we identify cladistics to be about natural classifications and their discovery and thereby propose to add an eighth cladistic definition to Quinn’s list, namely the systematist who seeks to discover natural classifications, regardless of their affiliation, theoretical or methodological...

Self domestication and the evolution of language

We set out an account of how self-domestication plays a crucial role in the evolution of language. In doing so, we focus on the growing body of work that treats language structure as emerging from the process of cultural transmission. We argue that a full recognition of the importance of cultural transmission fundamentally changes the kind of questions we should be asking...

Complexity and technological evolution: What everybody knows?

The consensus among cultural evolutionists seems to be that human cultural evolution is cumulative, which is commonly understood in the specific sense that cultural traits, especially technological traits, increase in complexity over generations. Here we argue that there is insufficient credible evidence in favor of or against this technological complexity thesis. For one thing...

In defence of biodiversity

The concept of biodiversity has played a central role within conservation biology over the last thirty years. Precisely how it should be understood, however, is a matter of ongoing debate. In this paper we defend what we call a classic multidimensional conception of biodiversity. We begin by introducing two arguments for eliminating the concept of biodiversity from conservation...

Error management, reliability and cognitive evolution

The paper offers a partial vindication of Sterelny’s view on the role of error rates and reliability in his theory of decoupled representation based on modelling techniques borrowed from the biological literature on evolution in stochastic environments. In the case of a tight link between tracking states and behaviour, I argue that in its full generality Sterelny’s account...

Forces, friction and fractionation: Denis Walsh’s Organisms, agency, and evolution

In Denis Walsh’s Organisms, Agency, and Evolution, he argues that new developments in the science of biology motivate a radical change to our metaphysical picture of life: what he calls ‘Situated Darwinism’. The central claim is that we should take the biological world to be at base about organisms, and organisms in a fundamentally teleological sense. We critically examine Walsh...

An enactive account of placebo effects

Placebos are commonly defined as ineffective treatments. They are treatments that lack a known mechanism linking their properties to the properties of the condition on which treatment aims to intervene. Given this, the fact that placebos can have substantial therapeutic effects looks puzzling. The puzzle, we argue, arises from the relationship placebos present between culturally...

What are cultural attractors?

Concepts from cultural attractor theory are now used in domains far from their original home in anthropology and cultural evolution. Yet these concepts have not been consistently characterised. I here distinguish four ways in which the cultural attractor concept has been used and identify three kinds of factors of attraction typically appealed to. Clarifying these explanatory...

The animal sensorimotor organization: a challenge for the environmental complexity thesis

Godfrey-Smith’s environmental complexity thesis (ECT) is most often applied to multicellular animals and the complexity of their macroscopic environments to explain how cognition evolved. We think that the ECT may be less suited to explain the origins of the animal bodily organization, including this organization’s potentiality for dealing with complex macroscopic environments...

Structural representations: causally relevant and different from detectors

This paper centers around the notion that internal, mental representations are grounded in structural similarity, i.e., that they are so-called S-representations. We show how S-representations may be causally relevant and argue that they are distinct from mere detectors. First, using the neomechanist theory of explanation and the interventionist account of causal relevance, we...