•  15
    Charting just futures for Aotearoa New Zealand: philosophy for and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic
    with Tim Mulgan, Sophia Enright, Marco Grix, Ushana Jayasuriya, Tēvita O. Ka‘ili, Adriana M. Lear, 'Aisea N. Matthew Māhina, 'Ōkusitino Māhina, Andrew Moore, Emily C. Parke, Vanessa Schouten, and Krushil Watene
    Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. forthcoming.
    The global pandemic needs to mark a turning point for the peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand. How can we make sure that our culturally diverse nation charts an equitable and sustainable path through and beyond this new world? In a less affluent future, how can we ensure that all New Zealanders have fair access to opportunities? One challenge is to preserve the sense of common purpose so critical to protecting each other in the face of Covid-19. How can we centre what we have learnt about resilience…Read more
  •  14
    Does proper function come in degrees?
    Biology and Philosophy 35 (4): 1-18. 2020.
    Natural selection comes in degrees. Some biological traits are subjected to stronger selective force than others, selection on particular traits waxes and wanes over time, and some groups can only undergo an attenuated kind of selective process. This has downstream consequences for any notions that are standardly treated as binary but depend on natural selection. For instance, the proper function of a biological structure can be defined as what caused that structure to be retained by natural sel…Read more
  •  25
    In a recent article in this journal, Zachary Ardern criticizes our view that the most promising candidate for a naturalized criterion of disease is the "selected effects" account of biological function and dysfunction. Here we reply to Ardern’s criticisms and, more generally, clarify the relationship between adaptation and dysfunction in the evolution of health and disease.
  •  13
    Detail and generality in mechanistic explanation
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 80 28-36. 2020.
    This article is about the role of abstraction in mechanistic explanations. Abstraction is widely recognised as a necessary concession to the practicalities of scientific work, but some mechanist philosophers argue that it is also a positive explanatory feature in its own right. I claim that in as much as these arguments are based on the idea that mechanistic explanation exhibits a trade-off between fine-grained detail and generality, they are unsuccessful. Detail and generality both appear to be…Read more
  •  45
    Biological Criteria of Disease: Four Ways of Going Wrong
    Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 1 (4). 2017.
    We defend a view of the distinction between the normal and the pathological according to which that distinction has an objective, biological component. We accept that there is a normative component to the concept of disease, especially as applied to human beings. Nevertheless, an organism cannot be in a pathological state unless something has gone wrong for that organism from a purely biological point of view. Biology, we argue, recognises two sources of biological normativity, which jointly gen…Read more
  •  509
    Evolution, Dysfunction, and Disease: A Reappraisal: Table 1
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (2): 301-327. 2018.
    Some ‘naturalist’ accounts of disease employ a biostatistical account of dysfunction, whilst others use a ‘selected effect’ account. Several recent authors have argued that the biostatistical account offers the best hope for a naturalist account of disease. We show that the selected effect account survives the criticisms levelled by these authors relatively unscathed, and has significant advantages over the BST. Moreover, unlike the BST, it has a strong theoretical rationale and can provide subs…Read more
  •  386
    Despite their best efforts, scientists may be unable to construct models that simultaneously exemplify every theoretical virtue. One explanation for this is the existence of tradeoffs: relationships of attenuation that constrain the extent to which models can have such desirable qualities. In this paper, we characterize three types of tradeoffs theorists may confront. These characterizations are then used to examine the relationships between parameter precision and two types of generality. We sh…Read more
  •  24
    Defining Paradigm Darwinian Populations
    Philosophy of Science 82 (2): 178-197. 2015.
    This paper presents an account of the biological populations that can undergo paradigmatic natural selection. I argue for, and develop Peter Godfrey-Smith’s claim that reproductive competition is a core attribute of such populations. However, as Godfrey-Smith notes, it is not the only important attribute. I suggest what the missing element is, co-opting elements of Alan Templeton’s notion of exchangeability. The final framework is then compared to two recent discussions regarding biological popu…Read more
  •  110
    Mechanistic models of population-level phenomena
    Biology and Philosophy 26 (5): 737-756. 2011.
    This paper is about mechanisms and models, and how they interact. In part, it is a response to recent discussion in philosophy of biology regarding whether natural selection is a mechanism. We suggest that this debate is indicative of a more general problem that occurs when scientists produce mechanistic models of populations and their behaviour. We can make sense of claims that there are mechanisms that drive population-level phenomena such as macroeconomics, natural selection, ecology, and epi…Read more
  •  92
    Trade-offs in model-building: A more target-oriented approach
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (2): 324-333. 2011.
    In his 1966 paper “The Strategy of model-building in Population Biology”, Richard Levins argues that no single model in population biology can be maximally realistic, precise and general at the same time. This is because these desirable model properties trade-off against one another. Recently, philosophers have developed Levins’ claims, arguing that trade-offs between these desiderata are generated by practical limitations on scientists, or due to formal aspects of models and how they represent …Read more