•  4
    Horizontal persistence and the complexity hypothesis
    Biology and Philosophy 35 (1): 2. 2020.
    This paper investigates the complexity hypothesis in microbial evolutionary genetics from a philosophical vantage. This hypothesis, in its current version, states that genes with high connectivity are likely to be resistant to being horizontally transferred. We defend four claims. There is an important distinction between two different ways in which a gene family can persist: vertically and horizontally. There is a trade-off between these two modes of persistence, such that a gene better at achi…Read more
  •  9
    Horizontal persistence and the complexity hypothesis
    Biology and Philosophy 35 (1): 1-22. 2020.
    This paper investigates the complexity hypothesis in microbial evolutionary genetics from a philosophical vantage. This hypothesis, in its current version, states that genes with high connectivity are likely to be resistant to being horizontally transferred. We defend four claims. There is an important distinction between two different ways in which a gene family can persist: vertically and horizontally. There is a trade-off between these two modes of persistence, such that a gene better at achi…Read more
  •  25
    This editorial introduces a series of review articles concerning the ways in which recent work on microbial evolution has both deepened and challenged the modern synthesis. The authors develop a framework for thinking about theory change in biology.
  •  18
    Cuvierian Functionalism
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11. 2019.
    This paper makes the case that evolutionary-developmental biology, in explaining the deep conservation of animal body plans, relies on a Cuvierian functionalist explanatory strategy. Philosophical analysis commonly treats evo-devo as a “typological” research program, in contrast to the population thinking that undergirds population-genetic approaches to evolutionary theorizing. The central aim of this paper is to show that many of the features that have led evo-devo to be treated as typological …Read more
  •  14
    A Reappraisal of Charles Darwin’s Engagement with the Work of William Sharp Macleay
    Journal of the History of Biology 52 (2): 245-270. 2019.
    Charles Darwin, in his species notebooks, engaged seriously with the quinarian system of William Sharp Macleay. Much of the attention given to this engagement has focused on Darwin’s attempt to explain, in a transmutationist framework, the intricate patterns that characterized the quinarian system. Here, I show that Darwin’s attempt to explain these quinarian patterns primarily occurred before he had read any work by Macleay. By the time Darwin began reading Macleay’s writings, he had already ar…Read more
  •  56
    L.A. Paul has recently defended the methodology of metaphysics on the grounds that it is continuous with the sciences. She claims that both scientists and metaphysicians use inference to the best explanation to choose between competing theories, and that the success of science vindicates the use of IBE in metaphysics. Specifically, the success of science shows that the theoretical virtues are truth-conducive. I challenge Paul’s claims on two grounds. First, I argue that, at least in biology, sci…Read more
  •  20
    The fine structure of ‘homology’
    Biology and Philosophy 33 (1-2): 6. 2018.
    There is long-standing conflict between genealogical and developmental accounts of homology. This paper provides a general framework that shows that these accounts are compatible and clarifies precisely how they are related. According to this framework, understanding homology requires both an abstract genealogical account that unifies the application of the term to all types of characters used in phylogenetic systematics and locally enriched accounts that apply only to specific types of characte…Read more
  •  81
    Presume It Not: True Causes in the Search for the Basis of Heredity
    with Raphael Scholl
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 2017.
    Kyle Stanford has recently given substance to the problem of unconceived alternatives, which challenges the reliability of inference to the best explanation (IBE) in remote domains of nature. Conjoined with the view that IBE is the central inferential tool at our disposal in investigating these domains, the problem of unconceived alternatives leads to scientific anti-realism. We argue that, at least within the biological community, scientists are now and have long been aware of the dangers of IB…Read more
  •  10
    On the Origins of the Quinarian System of Classification
    Journal of the History of Biology 49 (1): 95-133. 2016.
    William Sharp Macleay developed the quinarian system of classification in his Horæ Entomologicæ, published in two parts in 1819 and 1821. For two decades, the quinarian system was widely discussed in Britain and influenced such naturalists as Charles Darwin, Richard Owen, and Thomas Huxley. This paper offers the first detailed account of Macleay’s development of the quinarian system. Macleay developed his system under the shaping influence of two pressures: (1) the insistence by followers of Lin…Read more