Davis, California, United States of America
Areas of Specialization
Philosophy of Biology
  •  3
    Re-situations of scientific knowledge: a case study of a skirmish over clusters vs clines in human population genomics
    with Carlos Andrés Barragán
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (2): 1-32. 2022.
    We track and analyze the re-situation of scientific knowledge in the field of human population genomics ancestry studies. We understand re-situation as a process of accommodating the direct or indirect transfer of objects of knowledge from one site/situation to other sites/situations. Our take on the concept borrows from Mary S. Morgan’s work on facts traveling while expanding it to include other objects of knowledge such as models, data, software, findings, and visualizations. We structure a sp…Read more
  •  24
    Science and Sentiment: Grinnell’s Fact-Based Philosophy of Biodiversity Conservation
    Journal of the History of Biology 51 (2): 283-318. 2018.
    At the beginning of the twentieth century, the biologist Joseph Grinnell made a distinction between science and sentiment for producing fact-based generalizations on how to conserve biodiversity. We are inspired by Grinnellian science, which successfully produced a century-long impact on studying and conserving biodiversity that runs orthogonal to some familiar philosophical distinctions such as fact versus value, emotion versus reason and basic versus applied science. According to Grinnell, unl…Read more
  •  37
    Biological reproduction is a material process of intertwined, recursive propagule generation and development, assuming that development produces simple life cycles. Most organisms, however, have more or less complex life cycles. Here, I attempt to reconcile recent articulations of a reproducer account with traditional approaches to complex life cycles by generalizing genetic demarcation criteria for life cycle generations in terms of the “scaffolded” development of hybrid reproducers. I argue th…Read more
  •  27
    Collaboration in the museum of vertebrate zoology
    with Elihu M. Gerson
    Journal of the History of Biology 26 (2): 185-203. 1993.
  •  34
    Of mice and men and low unit cost
    with Elihu M. Gerson
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37 (2): 363-372. 2006.
  •  59
    Reconstructing the Past: Parsimony, Evolution, and Inference (review)
    with H. Bradley Shaffer
    Philosophical Review 101 (3): 725-729. 1992.
  •  44
    Bill Wimsatt on Multiple Ways of Getting at the Complexity of Nature
    with William Bechtel, Werner Callebaut, and Jeffrey C. Schank
    Biological Theory 1 (2): 213-219. 2006.
  •  23
    Causal Explanation in Laboratory Ecology: The Case of Competitive Indeterminacy
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988. 1988.
    This paper characterizes the role of the experimenter in causal explanations of laboratory phenomena. Causal explanation rests on appeals to the experimenter's efficacy as a causal agent. I contrast "demographic" and "genetic" explanations of stochastic outcomes in a set of competition experiments in ecology. The demographic view ascribes causes to the experimenter's agency in setting up the experiment and to events within the experimental set-up. The genetic view ascribes causes to an unrecogni…Read more
  •  49
    Material Models in Biology
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990. 1990.
    Propositions alone are not constitutive of science. But is the "non-propositional" side of science theoretically superfluous: must philosophy of science consider it in order to adequately account for science? I explore the boundary between the propositional and non-propositional sides of biological theory, drawing on three cases: Grinnell's remnant models of faunas, Wright's path analysis, and Weismannism's role in the generalization of evolutionary theory. I propose a picture of material model-…Read more
  •  24
    The informational Gene and the substantial body: On the Generalization of evolutionary theory by abstraction
    Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 86 (1): 59-116. 2005.
  •  71
    Must scientific diagrams be eliminable? The case of path analysis
    Biology and Philosophy 6 (2): 155-180. 1991.
    Scientists use a variety of modes of representation in their work, but philosophers have studied mainly sentences expressing propositions. I ask whether diagrams are mere conveniences in expressing propositions or whether they are a distinct, ineliminable mode of representation in scientific texts. The case of path analysis, a statistical method for quantitatively assessing the relative degree of causal determination of variation as expressed in a causal path diagram, is discussed. Path analysis…Read more
  •  60
    Populational heritability: Extending punnett square concepts to evolution at the metapopulation level (review)
    with Michael J. Wade
    Biology and Philosophy 15 (1): 1-17. 2000.
    In a previous study, using experimental metapopulations of the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, we investigated phase III of Wright's shifting balance process (Wade and Griesemer 1998). We experimentally modeled migration of varying amounts from demes of high mean fitness into demes of lower mean fitness (as in Wright's characterization of phase III) as well as the reciprocal (the opposite of phase III). We estimated the meta-populational heritability for this level of selection by regression …Read more
  •  104
    Modeling in the museum: On the role of Remnant models in the work of Joseph Grinnell (review)
    Biology and Philosophy 5 (1): 3-36. 1990.
    Accounts of the relation between theories and models in biology concentrate on mathematical models. In this paper I consider the dual role of models as representations of natural systems and as a material basis for theorizing. In order to explicate the dual role, I develop the concept of a remnant model, a material entity made from parts of the natural system(s) under study. I present a case study of an important but neglected naturalist, Joseph Grinnell, to illustrate the extent to which mundan…Read more
  •  29
    Genes, memes and demes
    Biology and Philosophy 3 (2): 179-184. 1988.
  •  93
    Laboratory models, causal explanation and group selection
    with Michael J. Wade
    Biology and Philosophy 3 (1): 67-96. 1988.
    We develop an account of laboratory models, which have been central to the group selection controversy. We compare arguments for group selection in nature with Darwin's arguments for natural selection to argue that laboratory models provide important grounds for causal claims about selection. Biologists get information about causes and cause-effect relationships in the laboratory because of the special role their own causal agency plays there. They can also get information about patterns of effe…Read more
  •  35
    Materials for the study of evolutionary transition
    Biology and Philosophy 14 (1): 127-142. 1999.
  •  33
    Presentations and the Status of Theories
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984. 1984.
    The concept of a presentation of a theory is often introduced in discussions of the "semantic view" of theories to characterize the way in which models for a theory are specified. Presentations are most often thought of as definitions of the kinds of systems represented in the models. It is argued that the concept of a presentation can be widened to permit consideration of the links between epistemologically motivated accounts of theory structure and some metaphysically motivated accounts of the…Read more
  •  73
    We argue that ‘locality’, perhaps the most mundane term in ecology, holds a basic ambiguity: two concepts of space—nomothetic and idiographic—which are both necessary for a rigorous resurvey to “the same” locality in the field, are committed to different practices with no common measurement. A case study unfolds the failure of the standard assumption that an exogenous grid of longitude and latitude, as fine‐grained as one wishes, suffices for revisiting a species locality. We briefly suggest a s…Read more
  •  62
    Philosophy and tinkering
    Biology and Philosophy 26 (2): 269-279. 2011.
    I characterize Wimsatt’s approach to philosophy of science as philosophy for science and then briefly consider a theme emerging from his work that informs just one of the many current developments in philosophy of biology that he inspired: scaffolding as a problem of mechanistic explanation for functionalists
  •  2
    Some central ideas associated with developmental systems theory are outlined for non-specialists. These ideas concern the nature of biological development, the alleged distinction between “genetic” and “environmental” traits, the relations between organism and environment, and evolutionary processes. I also discuss some criticisms of the DST approach.
  •  50
    Exact sciences are described as sciences whose theories are formalized. These are contrasted to inexact sciences, whose theories are not formalized. Formalization is described as a broader category than mathematization, involving any form/content distinction allowing forms, e.g., as represented in theoretical models, to be studied independently of the empirical content of a subject-matter domain. Exactness is a practice depending on the use of theories to control subject-matter domains and to al…Read more
  •  102
    Critical notice: Cycles of contingency – developmental systems and evolution (review)
    with Matthew H. Haber, Grant Yamashita, and Lisa Gannett
    Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3): 517-544. 2005.
    The themes, problems and challenges of developmental systems theory as described in Cycles of Contingency are discussed. We argue in favor of a robust approach to philosophical and scientific problems of extended heredity and the integration of behavior, development, inheritance, and evolution. Problems with Sterelny's proposal to evaluate inheritance systems using his `Hoyle criteria' are discussed and critically evaluated. Additional support for a developmental systems perspective is sought in…Read more
  •  33
    Integration of approaches in David Wake’s model-taxon research platform for evolutionary morphology
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4): 525-536. 2013.
    What gets integrated in integrative scientific practices has been a topic of much discussion. Traditional views focus on theories and explanations, with ideas of reduction and unification dominating the conversation. More recent ideas focus on disciplines, fields, or specialties; models, mechanisms, or methods; phenomena, problems. How integration works looks different on each of these views since the objects of integration are ontologically and epistemically various: statements, boundary condit…Read more
  •  294
    Development, culture, and the units of inheritance
    Philosophy of Science 67 (3): 368. 2000.
    Developmental systems theory (DST) expands the unit of replication from genes to whole systems of developmental resources, which DST interprets in terms of cycling developmental processes. Expansion seems required by DST's argument against privileging genes in evolutionary and developmental explanations of organic traits. DST and the expanded replicator brook no distinction between biological and cultural evolution. However, by endorsing a single expanded unit of inheritance and leaving the clas…Read more
  • Scaffolding in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition (edited book)
    with L. Caporael and W. Wimsatt
    MIT Press. forthcoming.