•  698
    Two Dogmas of Biology
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (2). 2017.
    The problem with reductionism in biology is not the reduction, but the implicit attitude of determinism that usually accompanies it. Methodological reductionism is supported by deterministic beliefs, but making such a connection is problematic when it is based on an idea of determinism as fixed predictability. Conflating determinism with predictability gives rise to inaccurate models that overlook the dynamic complexity of our world, as well as ignore our epistemic limitations when we try to mod…Read more
  •  11
    Network theory and the formation of groups without evolutionary forces
    Evolutionary Biology 39 (1): 94-105. 2012.
    This paper presents a modified random network model to illustrate how groups can form in the absence of evolutionary forces, assuming groups are collections of entities at any level of organization. This model is inspired by the Zero Force Evolutionary Law, which states that there is always a tendency for diversity and complexity to increase in any evolutionary system containing variation and heredity. That is, in the absence of evolutionary forces, the expectation is a continual increase in div…Read more
  •  29
    Darwin begins On the Origin of Species by asking the reader to “reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated” (1859, p. 7); almost five-hundred pages later, he closes by having the reader consider the “endless forms most beautiful and wonderful” that have evolved (1859, p. 490). Darwin contemplates diversity throughout the Origin and presents the principle of divergence as a way to explain it. Darwin formulated the principle of divergence around 1857 (Browne…Read more
  •  38
    Clatterbuck et al. (Biol Philos 28: 577–592, 2013) argue that there is no fact of the matter whether selection dominates drift or vice versa in any particular case of evolution. Their reasons are not empirically based; rather, they are purely conceptual. We show that their conceptual presuppositions are unmotivated, unnecessary and overly complex. We also show that their conclusion runs contrary to current biological practice. The solution is to recognize that evolution involves a probabilistic …Read more
  •  26
    Why flying dogs are rare: A general theory of luck in evolutionary transitions
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 49 24-31. 2015.
    There is a worry that the ‘major transitions in evolution’ represent an arbitrary group of events. This worry is warranted, and we show why. We argue that the transition to a new level of hierarchy necessarily involves a nonselectionist chance process. Thus any unified theory of evolutionary transitions must be more like a general theory of fortuitous luck, rather than a rigid formulation of expected events. We provide a systematic account of evolutionary transitions based on a second-order regu…Read more
  •  12
    Drosophila Mutants Suggest a Strong Drive Toward Complexity in Evolution
    Evolution and Development 15 (1): 53-62. 2013.
    The view that complexity increases in evolution is uncontroversial, yet little is known about the possible causes of such a trend. One hypothesis, the Zero Force Evolutionary Law (ZFEL), predicts a strong drive toward complexity, although such a tendency can be overwhelmed by selection and constraints. In the absence of strong opposition, heritable variation accumulates and complexity increases. In order to investigate this claim, we evaluate the gross morphological complexity of laboratory muta…Read more