•  4608
    Essentialism in philosophy is the position that things, especially kinds of things, have essences, or sets of properties, that all members of the kind must have, and the combination of which only members of the kind do, in fact, have. It is usually thought to derive from classical Greek philosophy and in particular from Aristotle’s notion of “what it is to be” something. In biology, it has been claimed that pre-evolutionary views of living kinds, or as they are sometimes called, “natu-ral kinds”…Read more
  •  1813
    The Salem Region: Two Mindsets about Science
    In Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.), Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem, University of Chicago Press. pp. 397. 2013.
    This chapter distinguishes between two mindsets about science—the deductivist mindset and inductivist mindset—and explores the cognitive styles relating to authority and tradition in both science and pseudoscience. The deductivist tends to see problems as questions to be resolved by deduction from known theory or principle. The inductivist sees problems as questions to be resolved by discovery. Those leaning towards a deductivist mindset may find results that conflict with prior theoretical comm…Read more
  •  1448
    Evolutionary debunking arguments in three domains: Fact, value, and religion
    with Paul E. Griffiths
    In James Maclaurin Greg Dawes (ed.), A New Science of Religion, Routledge. 2012.
    Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they produce are true, rather than merely useful? We consider this problem for beliefs in three different domains: religion, morality, and commonsense and scientific claims about matters of empirical fact. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. One reply is that ev…Read more
  •  1416
    Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they produce are true, rather than merely useful? In this chapter we apply this argument to beliefs in three different domains: morality, religion, and science. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. The simplest reply to evolutionary scepticism is that the truth o…Read more
  •  1122
    Could God create Darwinian accidents?
    Zygon 47 (1): 30-42. 2012.
    Abstract Charles Darwin, in his discussions with Asa Gray and in his published works, doubted whether God could so arrange it that exactly the desired contingent events would occur to cause particular outcomes by natural selection. In this paper, I argue that even a limited or neo-Leibnizian deity could have chosen a world that satisfied some arbitrary set of goals or functions in its outcomes and thus answer Darwin's conundrum. In more general terms, this supports the consistency of natural sel…Read more
  •  1062
    To naturalize religion, we must identify what religion is, and what aspects of it we are trying to explain. In this paper, religious social institutional behavior is the explanatory target, and an explanatory hypothesis based on shared primate social dominance psychology is given. The argument is that various religious features, including the high status afforded the religious, and the high status afforded to deities, are an expression of this social dominance psychology in a context for which i…Read more
  •  941
    Selection without replicators: the origin of genes, and the replicator/interactor distinction in etiobiology
    with Ian Musgrave and Clem Stanyon
    Biology and Philosophy 27 (2): 215-239. 2012.
    Genes are thought to have evolved from long-lived and multiply-interactive molecules in the early stages of the origins of life. However, at that stage there were no replicators, and the distinction between interactors and replicators did not yet apply. Nevertheless, the process of evolution that proceeded from initial autocatalytic hypercycles to full organisms was a Darwinian process of selection of favourable variants. We distinguish therefore between Neo-Darwinian evolution and the related W…Read more
  •  844
    Biological essentialism and the tidal change of natural kinds
    Science & Education 22 (2): 221-240. 2013.
    The vision of natural kinds that is most common in the modern philosophy of biology, particularly with respect to the question whether species and other taxa are natural kinds, is based on a revision of the notion by Mill in A System of Logic. However, there was another conception that Whewell had previously captured well, which taxonomists have always employed, of kinds as being types that need not have necessary and sufficient characters and properties, or essences. These competing views emplo…Read more
  •  459
    Are creationists rational?
    Synthese 178 (2): 207-218. 2011.
    Creationism is usually regarded as an irrational set of beliefs. In this paper I propose that the best way to understand why individual learners settle on any mature set of beliefs is to see that as the developmental outcome of a series of “fast and frugal” boundedly rational inferences rather than as a rejection of reason. This applies to those whose views are opposed to science in general. A bounded rationality model of belief choices both serves to explain the fact that folk traditions tend t…Read more
  •  276
    Tower of babel: The evidence against the new creationism
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (2). 2001.
    Book Information Tower of Babel: the evidence against the new creationism. By Robert T. Pennock. Bradford/MIT Press. Cambridge MA. 1999. Pp. xviii + 429.
  •  218
    What is a species? Essences and generation
    Theory in Biosciences 129 141-148. 2010.
    Arguments against essentialism in biology rely strongly on a claim that modern biology abandoned Aristotle's notion of a species as a class of necessary and sufficient properties. However, neither his theory of essentialism, nor his logical definition of species and genus (eidos and genos) play much of a role in biological research and taxonomy, including his own. The objections to natural kinds thinking by early twentieth century biologists wrestling with the new genetics overlooked the fact th…Read more
  •  196
    The evolutionary structure of scientific theories
    Biology and Philosophy 13 (4). 1998.
    David Hull's (1988c) model of science as a selection process suffers from a two-fold inability: (a) to ascertain when a lineage of theories has been established; i.e., when theories are descendants of older theories or are novelties, and what counts as a distinct lineage; and (b) to specify what the scientific analogue is of genotype and phenotype. This paper seeks to clarify these issues and to propose an abstract model of theories analogous to particulate genetic structure, in order to reconst…Read more
  •  163
    The adaptive landscape of science
    Biology and Philosophy 23 (5): 659-671. 2008.
    In 1988, David Hull presented an evolutionary account of science. This was a direct analogy to evolutionary accounts of biological adaptation, and part of a generalized view of Darwinian selection accounts that he based upon the Universal Darwinism of Richard Dawkins. Criticisms of this view were made by, among others, Kim Sterelny, which led to it gaining only limited acceptance. Some of these criticisms are, I will argue, no longer valid in the light of developments in the formal modeling of e…Read more
  •  156
    Trémaux on species: A theory of allopatric speciation (and punctuated equilibrium) before Wagner
    with Gareth J. Nelson
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 30 (1): 179-206. 2008.
    Pierre Trémaux’s 1865 ideas on speciation have been unjustly derided following his acceptance by Marx and rejection by Engels, and almost nobody has read his ideas in a charitable light. Here we offer an interpretation based on translating the term sol as “habitat”, in order to show that Trémaux proposed a theory of allopatric speciation before Wagner and a punctuated equilibrium theory before Gould and Eldredge, and translate the relevant discussion from the French. We believe he may have influ…Read more
  •  156
    The Hunting of the SNaRC: A Snarky Solution to the Species Problem
    with Brent D. Mishler
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 10 (1). 2018.
    We argue that the logical outcome of the cladistics revolution in biological systematics, and the move towards rankless phylogenetic classification of nested monophyletic groups as formalized in the PhyloCode, is to eliminate the species rank along with all the others and simply name clades. We propose that the lowest level of formally named clade be the SNaRC, the Smallest Named and Registered Clade. The SNaRC is an epistemic level in the classification, not an ontic one. Naming stops at that l…Read more
  •  140
    The concept and causes of microbial species
    Studies in History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 28 (3): 389-408. 2006.
    Species concepts for bacteria and other microbes are contentious, because they are often asexual. There is a Problem of Homogeneity: every mutation in an asexual lineage forms a new strain, of which all descendents are clones until a new mutation occurs. We should expect that asexual organisms would form a smear or continuum. What causes the internal homogeneity of asexual lineages, if they are in fact homogeneous? Is there a natural “species concept” for “microbes”? Two main concepts devised fo…Read more
  •  127
    The Advantages of Theft over Toil: The Design Inference and Arguing from Ignorance
    with Wesley R. Elsberry
    Biology and Philosophy 16 (5): 709-722. 2001.
    Intelligent design theorist William Dembski has proposed an ``explanatory filter'' for distinguishing between events due to chance,lawful regularity or design. We show that if Dembski's filter were adopted as a scientific heuristic, some classical developments in science would not be rational, and that Dembski's assertion that the filter reliably identifies rarefied design requires ignoring the state of background knowledge. If background information changes even slightly, the filter's conclusio…Read more
  •  112
    Species: a history of the idea
    Univ of California Pr. 2009.
    "--Joel Cracraft, American Museum of Natural History "This is not the potted history that one usually finds in texts and review articles.
  •  111
    Philosophy of Biology, by Peter Godfrey-Smith
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (1): 206-207. 2015.
  •  110
    Scientists and philosophers routinely talk about phenomena, and the ways in which they relate to explanation, theory and practice in science. However, there are very few definitions of the term, which is often used synonymously with "data'', "model'' and in older literature, "hypothesis''. In this paper I will attempt to clarify how phenomena are recognized, categorized and the role they play in scientific epistemology. I conclude that phenomena are not necessarily theory-based commitments, but …Read more
  •  103
    Getting over systematics (review)
    Metascience 21 (2): 383-386. 2012.
    Getting over systematics Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-012-9662-5 Authors John S. Wilkins, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2009, Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796
  •  103
    The Nature of Classification discusses an old and generally ignored issue in the philosophy of science: natural classification. It argues for classification to be a sometimes theory-free activity in science, and discusses the existence of scientific domains, theory-dependence of observation, the inferential relations of classification and theory, and the nature of the classificatory activity in general. It focuses on biological classification, but extends the discussion to physics, psychiatry, m…Read more
  •  101
    Defining Species: A Sourcebook from Antiquity to Today provides excerpts and commentary on the definition of «species from source material ranging from the ...
  •  83
    Review of the Cambridge Companion to Darwin (review)
    Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 2010.
    Part I includes pieces by Phillip Sloan on how Darwin theorized evolution, Jon Hodge on the Notebooks and the years Darwin spent in London after the voyage of the Beagle , and essays on Darwin’s views on heredity (Jim Endersby), on mind and the emotions (Robert Richards) and the argument structure of the Origin (Ken Waters). All of these are excellent and nuanced, and well referenced, written by leading specialists on each topic. Endersby’s essay in particular introduced me to material I hadn’t …Read more
  •  76
    The roles, reasons and restrictions of science blogs
    Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23 (8): 411-413. 2008.
    Over the past few years, blogging (“web logging”) has become a major social movement, and as such includes blogs by scientists about science. Blogs are highly idiosyncratic, personal and ephemeral means of public expression, and yet they contribute to the current practice and reputation of science as much as, if not more than, any popular scientific work or visual presentation. It is important, therefore, to understand this phenomenon.
  •  63
    Systematics and the origin of species: On Ernst Mayr's 100th anniversary
    with Walter M. Fitch and Francisco J. Ayala
    Biology and Philosophy 22 (4): 603-610. 2007.