• John Tyler Bonner: Remembering a scientific pioneer
    with L. A. Katz, V. Nanjundiah, S. F. Gilbert, P. R. Grant, B. R. Grant, Alan Love, S. A. Newman, and M. J. West-Eberhard
    Journal of Experimental Evolution (Mol Dev Evol) 332 365-370. 2019.
    Throughout his life, John Tyler Bonner contributed to major transformations in the fields of developmental and evolutionary biology. He pondered the evolution of complexity and the significance of randomness in evolution, and was instrumental in the formation of evolutionary developmental biology. His contributions were vast, ranging from highly technical scientific articles to numerous books written for a broad audience. This historical vignette gathers reflections by several prominent research…Read more
  •  3
    Accounting for the evolutionary origins of morphological novelty is one of the core challenges of contemporary evolutionary biology. A successful explanatory framework requires the integration of different biological disciplines, but the relationships between developmental biology and standard evolutionary biology remain contested. There is also disagreement about how to define the concept of evolutionary novelty. These issues were the subjects of a workshop held in November 2009 at the Universi…Read more
  •  85
    Although natural philosophers have long been interested in individuality, it has been of interest to contemporary philosophers of biology because of its role in different aspects of evolutionary biology. These debates include whether species are individuals or classes, what counts as a unit of selection, and how transitions in individuality occur evolutionarily. Philosophical analyses are often conducted in terms of metaphysics (“what is an individual?”), rather than epistemology (“how can and d…Read more
  •  28
    Engaging with science, values, and society: introduction
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 52 (3). 2022.
    Philosophical work on science and values has come to engage with the concerns of society and of stakeholders affected by science and policy, leading to socially relevant philosophy of science and socially engaged philosophy of science. This special issue showcases instances of socially relevant philosophy of science, featuring contributions on a diversity of topics by Janet Kourany, Andrew Schroeder, Alison Wylie, Kristen Intemann, Joyce Havstad, Justin Biddle, Kevin Elliott, and Ingo Brigandt.
  •  22
    Menschenbildkonflikte: Evolutionstheorie und Naturalismus
    In Michael Zichy (ed.), Handbuch Menschenbilder, Springer. Doi:10.1007/978-3-658-32138-3_40-1. 2022.
    Ein naturalistisches Menschenbild sieht berechtigterweise uns Menschen und unsere geistigen Fähigkeiten als materielle Phänomene und durch Evolution entstanden. Dies ist immer wieder der Anlass zu Menschenbildkonflikten, insbesondere mit religiös fundierten Menschenbildern. Aber auch innerhalb der Verhaltens- und Kognitionswissenschaft kann man suspekte Menschenbilder finden, die kulturell bedingte Verhaltensmuster und soziale Organisationsformen als biologisch-genetisch bestimmt sehen. Zum Beis…Read more
  •  42
    A number of biologists and philosophers have noted the diversity of interpretations of evolvability in contemporary evolutionary research. Different clusters of research defined by co-citation patterns or shared methodological orientation sometimes concentrate on distinct conceptions of evolvability. We examine five different activities where the notion of evolvability plays conceptual roles in evolutionary biological investigation: setting a research agenda, characterization, explanation, predi…Read more
  •  37
    A disposition or dispositional property is a capacity, ability, or potential to display or exhibit some outcome. Evolvability refers to a disposition to evolve. This chapter discusses why the dispositional nature of evolvability matters—why philosophical distinctions about dispositions can have scientific implications. To that end, we build a conceptual toolkit with vocabulary from prior philosophical analyses using a different disposition: protein foldability. We then apply this toolkit to addr…Read more
  •  27
    The theory of concepts advanced in the dissertation aims at accounting for a) how a concept makes successful practice possible, and b) how a scientific concept can be subject to rational change in the course of history. Traditional accounts in the philosophy of science have usually studied concepts in terms only of their reference; their concern is to establish a stability of reference in order to address the incommensurability problem. My discussion, in contrast, suggests that each scientific c…Read more
  •  117
    Recent rival attempts in the philosophy of science to put forward a general theory of the properties that all (and only) natural kinds across the sciences possess may have proven to be futile. Instead, I develop a general methodological framework for how to philosophically study kinds. Any kind has to be investigated and articulated together with the human aims that motivate referring to this kind, where different kinds in the same scientific domain can answer to different concrete aims. My core…Read more
  •  40
    Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on the Study of Developmental Bias
    Evolution & Development 22 (1-2): 7-19. 2020.
    Throughout the recent history of research at the intersection of evolution and development, notions such as developmental constraint, evolutionary novelty, and evolvability have been prominent, but the term ‘developmental bias’ has scarcely been used. And one may even doubt whether a unique and principled definition of bias is possible. I argue that the concept of developmental bias can still play a vital scientific role by means of setting an explanatory agenda that motivates investigation and …Read more
  •  154
    Multilevel Research Strategies and Biological Systems
    with Maureen A. O’Malley, Alan C. Love, John W. Crawford, Jack A. Gilbert, Rob Knight, Sandra D. Mitchell, and Forest Rohwer
    Philosophy of Science 81 (5): 811-828. 2014.
    Multilevel research strategies characterize contemporary molecular inquiry into biological systems. We outline conceptual, methodological, and explanatory dimensions of these multilevel strategies in microbial ecology, systems biology, protein research, and developmental biology. This review of emerging lines of inquiry in these fields suggests that multilevel research in molecular life sciences has significant implications for philosophical understandings of explanation, modeling, and represent…Read more
  •  105
    Homology in comparative, molecular, and evolutionary developmental biology: The radiation of a concept
    Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 299 9-17. 2003.
    The present paper analyzes the use and understanding of the homology concept across different biological disciplines. It is argued that in its history, the homology concept underwent a sort of adaptive radiation. Once it migrated from comparative anatomy into new biological fields, the homology concept changed in accordance with the theoretical aims and interests of these disciplines. The paper gives a case study of the theoretical role that homology plays in comparative and evolutionary biology…Read more
  •  71
    Philosophy of Molecular Biology
    eLS: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. 2018.
    Ongoing empirical discoveries in molecular biology have generated novel conceptual challenges and perspectives. Philosophers of biology have reacted to these trends when investigating the practice of molecular biology and contributed to scientific debates on methodological and conceptual matters. This article reviews some major philosophical issues in molecular biology. First, philosophical accounts of mechanistic explanation yield a notion of explanation in the context of molecular biology that…Read more
  •  780
    Strategic Conceptual Engineering for Epistemic and Social Aims
    In Alexis Burgess, Herman Cappelen & David Plunkett (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics, Oxford University Press. pp. 100-124. 2020.
    Examining previous discussions on how to construe the concepts of gender and race, we advocate what we call strategic conceptual engineering. This is the employment of a (possibly novel) concept for specific epistemic or social aims, concomitant with the openness to use a different concept (e.g., of race) for other purposes. We illustrate this approach by sketching three distinct concepts of gender and arguing that all of them are needed, as they answer to different social aims. The first concep…Read more
  •  60
    Philosophical discussions of systems biology have enriched the notion of mechanistic explanation by pointing to the role of mathematical modeling. However, such accounts still focus on explanation in terms of tracking a mechanism's operation across time (by means of mental or computational simulation). My contention is that there are explanations of molecular systems where the explanatory understanding does not consist in tracking a mechanism's operation and productive continuity. I make this ca…Read more
  •  103
    Typology and Natural Kinds in Evo-Devo
    In Laura Nuño De La Rosa & Gerd Müller (eds.), Evolutionary Developmental Biology: A Reference Guide, Springer. pp. 483-493. 2021.
    The traditional practice of establishing morphological types and investigating morphological organization has found new support from evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), especially with respect to the notion of body plans. Despite recurring claims that typology is at odds with evolutionary thinking, evo-devo offers mechanistic explanations of the evolutionary origin, transformation, and evolvability of morphological organization. In parallel, philosophers have developed non-essentialis…Read more
  •  85
    Systems Biology and Mechanistic Explanation
    with Sara Green and Maureen O'Malley
    In Stuart Glennan & Phyllis McKay Illari (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy, Routledge. 2018.
    We address the question of whether and to what extent explanatory and modelling strategies in systems biology are mechanistic. After showing how dynamic mathematical models are actually required for mechanistic explanations of complex systems, we caution readers against expecting all systems biology to be about mechanistic explanations. Instead, the aim may be to generate topological explanations that are not standardly mechanistic, or to arrive at design principles that explain system organizat…Read more
  •  89
    The present discussion of sociobiological approaches to ethnic nepotism takes Pierre van den Berghe ʼs theory as a starting point. Two points, which have not been addressed in former analyses, are considered to be of particular importance. It is argued that the behavioral mechanism of ethnic nepotism—as understood by van den Berghe—cannot explain ethnic boundaries and attitudes. In addition, I show that van den Bergheʼs central premise concerning ethnic nepotism is in contradiction to Hamiltonʼs…Read more
  •  175
    Typology now: homology and developmental constraints explain evolvability
    Biology and Philosophy 22 (5): 709-725. 2007.
    By linking the concepts of homology and morphological organization to evolvability, this paper attempts to (1) bridge the gap between developmental and phylogenetic approaches to homology and to (2) show that developmental constraints and natural selection are compatible and in fact complementary. I conceive of a homologue as a unit of morphological evolvability, i.e., as a part of an organism that can exhibit heritable phenotypic variation independently of the organism’s other homologues. An ac…Read more
  •  271
    The paper works towards an account of explanatory integration in biology, using as a case study explanations of the evolutionary origin of novelties-a problem requiring the integration of several biological fields and approaches. In contrast to the idea that fields studying lower level phenomena are always more fundamental in explanations, I argue that the particular combination of disciplines and theoretical approaches needed to address a complex biological problem and which among them is expla…Read more
  •  239
    Systems biology and the integration of mechanistic explanation and mathematical explanation
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4): 477-492. 2013.
    The paper discusses how systems biology is working toward complex accounts that integrate explanation in terms of mechanisms and explanation by mathematical models—which some philosophers have viewed as rival models of explanation. Systems biology is an integrative approach, and it strongly relies on mathematical modeling. Philosophical accounts of mechanisms capture integrative in the sense of multilevel and multifield explanations, yet accounts of mechanistic explanation have failed to address…Read more
  •  17
    Stathis Psillos: Causation and Explanation (review)
    Philosophy of Science 70 (4): 844-846. 2003.
  •  134
    Philosophical issues in experimental biology
    Biology and Philosophy 21 (3). 2006.
    Review essay of The Philosophy of Experimental Biology by Marcel Weber (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
  •  81
    Ethology brought some crucial insights and perspectives to the study of behavior, in particular the idea that behavior can be studied within a comparative-evolutionary framework by means of homologizing components of behavioral patterns and by causal analysis of behavior components and their integration. Early ethology is well-known for its extensive use of qualitative observations of animals under their natural conditions. These observations are combined with experiments that try to analyze beh…Read more
  •  275
    The importance of homology for biology and philosophy
    with Paul Edmund Griffiths
    Biology and Philosophy 22 (5): 633-641. 2007.
    Editors' introduction to the special issue on homology (Biology and Philosophy Vol. 22, Issue 5, 2007)
  •  248
    The purpose of the paper is twofold. I first outline a philosophical theory of concepts based on conceptual role semantics. This approach is explicitly intended as a framework for the study and explanation of conceptual change in science. Then I point to the close similarities between this philosophical framework and the theory theory of concepts, suggesting that a convergence between psychological and philosophical approaches to concepts is possible. An underlying theme is to stress that using …Read more