•  16
    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
  •  69
    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
  •  27
    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
  •  146
    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
  •  100
    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
  •  58
    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
  •  463
    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
  •  37
    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
  •  86
    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
  •  77
    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
  •  181
    Natural Kinds and Concepts: A Pragmatist and Methodologically Naturalistic Account
    In Jonathan Knowles & Henrik Rydenfelt (eds.), Pragmatism, Science and Naturalism, Peter Lang Publishing. 2011.
    In this chapter I lay out a notion of philosophical naturalism that aligns with pragmatism. It is developed and illustrated by a presentation of my views on natural kinds and my theory of concepts. Both accounts reflect a methodological naturalism and are defended not by way of metaphysical considerations, but in terms of their philosophical fruitfulness. A core theme is that the epistemic interests of scientists have to be taken into account by any naturalistic philosophy of science in general,…Read more
  •  21
    Essay: Homology
    The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. 2011.
    Homology is a central concept of comparative and evolutionary biology, referring to the presence of the same bodily parts (e.g., morphological structures) in different species. The existence of homologies is explained by common ancestry, and according to modern definitions of homology, two structures in different species are homologous if they are derived from the same structure in the common ancestor. Homology has traditionally been contrasted with analogy, the presence of similar traits in dif…Read more
  •  122
    The present paper gives a philosophical analysis of the conceptual variation in the homology concept. It is argued that different homology concepts are used in evolutionary and comparative biology, in evolutionary developmental biology, and in molecular biology. The study uses conceptual role semantics, focusing on the inferences and explanations supported by concepts, as a heuristic tool to explain conceptual change. The differences between homology concepts are due to the fact that these conce…Read more
  •  160
    The ‘death of evidence’ issue in Canada raises the spectre of politicized science, and thus the question of what role social values may have in science and how this meshes with objectivity and evidence. I first criticize philosophical accounts that have to separate different steps of research to restrict the influence of social and other non-epistemic values. A prominent account that social values may play a role even in the context of theory acceptance is the argument from inductive risk. It ma…Read more
  •  168
    Species pluralism does not imply species eliminativism
    Philosophy of Science 70 (5). 2003.
    Marc Ereshefsky argues that pluralism about species suggests that the species concept is not theoretically useful. It is to be abandoned in favor of several concrete species concepts that denote real categories. While accepting species pluralism, the present paper rejects eliminativism about the species category. It is argued that the species concept is important and that it is possible to make sense of a general species concept despite the existence of different concrete species concepts.
  •  47
    Homology and the origin of correspondence
    Biology and Philosophy 17 (3). 2002.
    Homology is a natural kind term and a precise account of what homologyis has to come out of theories about the role of homologues in evolution anddevelopment. Definitions of homology are discussed with respect to the questionas to whether they are able to give a non-circular account of thecorrespondenceor sameness referred to by homology. It is argued that standard accounts tiehomology to operational criteria or specific research projects, but are not yetable to offer a concept of homology that …Read more
  •  4
    Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection (review)
    Philosophical Review 119 (3): 140-143. 2010.
  •  271
    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)
  •  79
    Accounting for Vertebrate Limbs: From Owen's Homology to Novelty in Evo-Devo
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 1 (20130604). 2009.
    This article reviews the recent reissuing of Richard Owen’s On the Nature of Limbs and its three novel, introductory essays. These essays make Owen’s 1849 text very accessible by discussing the historical context of his work and explaining how Owen’s ideas relate to his larger intellectual framework. In addition to the ways in which the essays point to Owen’s relevance for contemporary biology, I discuss how Owen’s unity of type theory and his homology claims about fins and limbs compare with mo…Read more
  •  79
    The present study discusses the early theoretical development of Konrad Lorenz in the period from 1930 to 1937. In this period Lorenz developed his position on instinct in the first place, and thus his theoretical views were subject to change. Despite this change, the paper points to relatively stable features of Lorenz’s approach, which emerged relatively soon in his scientific career and guided his theoretical development in this and beyond this early phase.
  •  209
    This chapter offers a critique of intelligent design arguments against evolution and a philosophical discussion of the nature of science, drawing several lessons for the teaching of evolution and for science education in general. I discuss why Behe’s irreducible complexity argument fails, and why his portrayal of organismal systems as machines is detrimental to biology education and any under-standing of how organismal evolution is possible. The idea that the evolution of complex organismal feat…Read more
  •  156
    The paper discusses reference determination from the point of view of conceptual change in science. The first part of the discussion uses the homology concept, a natural kind term from biology, as an example. It is argued that the causal theory of reference gives an incomplete account of reference determination even in the case of natural kind terms. Moreover, even if descriptions of the referent are taken into account, this does not yield a satisfactory account of reference in the case of the h…Read more
  •  297
    Despite the traditional focus on metaphysical issues in discussions of natural kinds in biology, epistemological considerations are at least as important. By revisiting the debate as to whether taxa are kinds or individuals, I argue that both accounts are metaphysically compatible, but that one or the other approach can be pragmatically preferable depending on the epistemic context. Recent objections against construing species as homeostatic property cluster kinds are also addressed. The second …Read more
  •  257
    Explanation in Biology: Reduction, Pluralism, and Explanatory Aims
    Science & Education 22 (1): 69-91. 2011.
    This essay analyzes and develops recent views about explanation in biology. Philosophers of biology have parted with the received deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation primarily by attempting to capture actual biological theorizing and practice. This includes an endorsement of different kinds of explanation (e.g., mathematical and causal-mechanistic), a joint study of discovery and explanation, and an abandonment of models of theory reduction in favor of accounts of explanatory r…Read more