•  23
    Hidden Concepts in the History of Origins-of-Life Studies
    with Carlos Mariscal, Ana Barahona, Nathanael Aubert-Kato, Arsev Umur Aydinoglu, Stuart Bartlett, María Luz Cárdenas, Kuhan Chandru, Benjamin T. Cocanougher, Nathaniel Comfort, Athel Cornish-Boden, Terrence W. Deacon, Tom Froese, Donato Giovanelli, John Hernlund, Piet Hut, Jun Kimura, Marie-Christine Maurel, Nancy Merino, Alvaro Julian Moreno Bergareche, Mayuko Nakagawa, Juli Pereto, Nathaniel Virgo, Olaf Witkowski, and H. James Cleaves Ii
    Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 1. 2019.
    In this review, we describe some of the central philosophical issues facing origins-of-life research and provide a targeted history of the developments that have led to the multidisciplinary field of origins-of-life studies. We outline these issues and developments to guide researchers and students from all fields. With respect to philosophy, we provide brief summaries of debates with respect to (1) definitions (or theories) of life, what life is and how research should be conducted in the absen…Read more
  •  119
    Prediction and Explanation in Historical Natural Science
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (3): 551-582. 2011.
    In earlier work ( Cleland [2001] , [2002]), I sketched an account of the structure and justification of ‘prototypical’ historical natural science that distinguishes it from ‘classical’ experimental science. This article expands upon this work, focusing upon the close connection between explanation and justification in the historical natural sciences. I argue that confirmation and disconfirmation in these fields depends primarily upon the explanatory (versus predictive or retrodictive) success or…Read more
  •  65
    Effective procedures and computable functions
    Minds and Machines 5 (1): 9-23. 1995.
      Horsten and Roelants have raised a number of important questions about my analysis of effective procedures and my evaluation of the Church-Turing thesis. They suggest that, on my account, effective procedures cannot enter the mathematical world because they have a built-in component of causality, and, hence, that my arguments against the Church-Turing thesis miss the mark. Unfortunately, however, their reasoning is based upon a number of misunderstandings. Effective mundane procedures do not, …Read more
  •  116
    Bringing together the latest scientific advances and some of the most enduring subtle philosophical puzzles and problems, this book collects original historical and contemporary sources to explore the wide range of issues surrounding the nature of life. Selections ranging from Aristotle and Descartes to Sagan and Dawkins are organised around four broad themes covering classical discussions of life, the origins and extent of natural life, contemporary artificial life creations and the definition …Read more
  •  133
    On the individuation of events
    Synthese 86 (2). 1991.
  •  11
    There is no broadly accepted definition of ‘life.’ Suggested definitions face problems, often in the form of robust counter-examples. Here we use insights from philosophical investigations into language to argue that defining ‘life’ currently poses a dilemma analogous to that faced by those hoping to define ‘water’ before the existence of molecular theory. In the absence of an analogous theory of the nature of living systems, interminable controversy over the definition of life is inescapable.
  •  23
    Science and the Messy, Uncontrollable World of Nature
    In Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.), Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem, University of Chicago Press. pp. 183. 2013.
    This chapter argues that doubts about the scientific status of the field sciences often rest on mistaken preconceptions about the nature of the evaluative relation between empirical evidence and hypothesis or theory, namely, that it is some sort of formal logical relation. It argues that there is a potentially more fruitful approach to understanding the nature of the support offered by empirical evidence to scientific hypotheses. The first part of the chapter briefly reviews the traditional phil…Read more
  •  105
    Life without definitions
    Synthese 185 (1): 125-144. 2012.
    The question ‘what is life?’ has long been a source of philosophical debate and in recent years has taken on increasing scientific importance. The most popular approach among both philosophers and scientists for answering this question is to provide a “definition” of life. In this article I explore a variety of different definitional approaches, both traditional and non-traditional, that have been used to “define” life. I argue that all of them are deeply flawed. It is my contention that a scien…Read more
  •  1
  •  15
    Review of Parsons (review)
    Philosophy of Science 71 (4): 605-607. 2004.
  •  5
    : Despite its amazing morphological diversity, life as we know it on Earth today is remarkably similar in its basic molecular architecture and biochemistry. The assumption that all life on Earth today shares these molecular and biochemical features is part of the paradigm of modern biology. This paper examines the possibility that this assumption is false, more specifically, that the contemporary Earth contains as yet unrecognized alternative forms of microbial life. The possibility that more tha…Read more
  •  28
    Pluralism or unity in biology: could microbes hold the secret to life?
    Biology and Philosophy 28 (2): 189-204. 2013.
    Pluralism is popular among philosophers of biology. This essay argues that negative judgments about universal biology, while understandable, are very premature. Familiar life on Earth represents a single example of life and, most importantly, there are empirical as well as theoretical reasons for suspecting that it may be unrepresentative. Scientifically compelling generalizations about the unity of life must await the discovery of forms of life descended from an alternative origin, the most pro…Read more
  •  192
    Is the church-Turing thesis true?
    Minds and Machines 3 (3): 283-312. 1993.
      The Church-Turing thesis makes a bold claim about the theoretical limits to computation. It is based upon independent analyses of the general notion of an effective procedure proposed by Alan Turing and Alonzo Church in the 1930''s. As originally construed, the thesis applied only to the number theoretic functions; it amounted to the claim that there were no number theoretic functions which couldn''t be computed by a Turing machine but could be computed by means of some other kind of effective…Read more
  •  31
    Epistemological issues in the study of microbial life: Alternative terran biospheres?
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38 (4): 847-861. 2007.
    The assumption that all life on Earth today shares the same basic molecular architecture and biochemistry is part of the paradigm of modern biology. This paper argues that there is little theoretical or empirical support for this widely held assumption. Scientists know that life could have been at least modestly different at the molecular level and it is clear that alternative molecular building blocks for life were available on the early Earth. If the emergence of life is, like other natural ph…Read more
  •  2
    The Church-Turing Thesis: A last vestige of a failed mathematical program
    In A. Olszewski, J. Wole'nski & R. Janusz (eds.), Church's Thesis After Seventy Years, Ontos Verlag. pp. 119-146. 2006.
  •  485
    Experimental research is commonly held up as the paradigm of "good" science. Although experiment plays many roles in science, its classical role is testing hypotheses in controlled laboratory settings. Historical science is sometimes held to be inferior on the grounds that its hypothesis cannot be tested by controlled laboratory experiments. Using contemporary examples from diverse scientific disciplines, this paper explores differences in practice between historical and experimental research vi…Read more
  •  95
    Many scientists believe that there is a uniform, interdisciplinary method for the prac- tice of good science. The paradigmatic examples, however, are drawn from classical ex- perimental science. Insofar as historical hypotheses cannot be tested in controlled labo- ratory settings, historical research is sometimes said to be inferior to experimental research. Using examples from diverse historical disciplines, this paper demonstrates that such claims are misguided. First, the reputed superiority …Read more
  •  56
    Epistemological issues in the study of microbial life: alternative terran biospheres?
    Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. And Biomed. Sci 38 (4): 847-61. 2007.
    The assumption that all life on Earth today shares the same basic molecular architecture and biochemistry is part of the paradigm of modern biology. This paper argues that there is little theoretical or empirical support for this widely held assumption. Scientists know that life could have been at least modestly different at the molecular level and it is clear that alternative molecular building blocks for life were available on the early Earth. If the emergence of life is, like other natural phe…Read more
  •  6
    Signatures of a Shadow Biosphere
    with Paul C. W. Davies and Christopher P. McKay
    Astrobiologists are aware that extraterrestrial life might differ from known life, and considerable thought has been given to possible signatures associated with weird forms of life on other planets. So far, however, very little attention has been paid to the possibility that our own planet might also host communities of weird life. If life arises readily in Earth-like conditions, as many astrobiologists contend, then it may well have formed many times on Earth itself, which raises the question …Read more
  •  548
    Recipes, algorithms, and programs
    Minds and Machines 11 (2): 219-237. 2001.
      In the technical literature of computer science, the concept of an effective procedure is closely associated with the notion of an instruction that precisely specifies an action. Turing machine instructions are held up as providing paragons of instructions that "precisely describe" or "well define" the actions they prescribe. Numerical algorithms and computer programs are judged effective just insofar as they are thought to be translatable into Turing machine programs. Nontechnical procedures …Read more
  •  19
    Lectures On Metaphysics 1934-1935
    Review of Metaphysics 48 (3): 671-673. 1995.
    This book consists of notes of lectures given by G. E. Moore at Cambridge during the three terms of 1934-35. They were compiled by the editor, Alice Ambrose, who was then Student of Newnham College, and the late Margaret Macdonald, who was then Fellow of Girton College. The lectures contain discussions of some material on which Moore published little or nothing, for example, types and tokens, propositional functions and their relation to common properties and relations, and the objects of false …Read more
  •  9
    Epistemological issues in the study of microbial life: alternative terran biospheres?
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38 (4): 847-861. 2007.
  •  78
  •  89
    On effective procedures
    Minds and Machines 12 (2): 159-179. 2002.
    Since the mid-twentieth century, the concept of the Turing machine has dominated thought about effective procedures. This paper presents an alternative to Turing's analysis; it unifies, refines, and extends my earlier work on this topic. I show that Turing machines cannot live up to their billing as paragons of effective procedure; at best, they may be said to provide us with mere procedure schemas. I argue that the concept of an effective procedure crucially depends upon distinguishing procedur…Read more
  •  48
    Is one of the roles of theory in biology answering the question “What is life?” This is true of theory in many other fields of science. So why should not it be the case for biology? Yet efforts to identify unifying concepts and principles of life have been disappointing, leading some (pluralists) to conclude that life is not a natural kind. In this essay I argue that such judgments are premature. Life as we know it on Earth today represents a single example and moreover there is positive evidenc…Read more
  •  160
    Laws of Nature
    Review of Metaphysics 49 (2): 406-408. 1995.
    In recent years, an increasing number of philosophers have come to doubt the viability of the empiricist program of analyzing the concepts of lawhood and causation in terms of nonnomic or noncausal concepts. The central thesis of Carroll's book is that these concepts cannot be so analyzed. Carroll is quite liberal about what he is willing to count as a reductive analysis. He does not identify an analysis with a definition, as traditional empiricists have insisted upon. He is willing to go along …Read more