•  654
    Cohesion, Gene flow, and the Nature of Species
    Journal of Philosophy 107 (2): 59-77. 2010.
    A far-reaching and influential view in evolutionary biology claims that species are cohesive units held together by gene flow. Biologists have recognized empirical problems facing this view; after sharpening the expression of the view, we present novel conceptual problems for it. At the heart of these problems is a distinction between two importantly different concepts of cohesion, what we call integrative and response cohesion. Acknowledging the distinction problematizes both the explanandum…Read more
  •  401
    When Traditional Essentialism Fails
    Philosophical Topics 35 (1-2): 189-215. 2007.
    Essentialism is widely regarded as a mistaken view of biological kinds, such as species. After recounting why (sections 2-3), we provide a brief survey of the chief responses to the “death of essentialism” in the philosophy of biology (section 4). We then develop one of these responses, the claim that biological kinds are homeostatic property clusters (sections 5-6) illustrating this view with several novel examples (section 7). Although this view was first expressed 20 years ago, and has receiv…Read more
  •  352
    Well-being, Disability, and Choosing Children
    Mind 128 (510): 305-328. 2019.
    The view that it is better for life to be created free of disability is pervasive in both common sense and philosophy. We cast doubt on this view by focusing on an influential line of thinking that manifests it. That thinking begins with a widely-discussed principle, Procreative Beneficence, and draws conclusions about parental choice and disability. After reconstructing two versions of this argument, we critique the first by exploring the relationship between different understandings of well…Read more
  •  134
    Specious intrinsicalism
    Philosophy of Science 77 (1): 73-91. 2010.
    Over the last 2,300 years or so, many philosophers have believed that species are individuated by essences that are at least in part intrinsic. Psychologists tell us most folks also believe this view. But most philosophers of biology have abandoned the view, in light of evolutionary conceptions of species. In defiance, Michael Devitt has attempted in this journal to resurrect a version of the view, which he calls Intrinsic Biological Essentialism. I show that his arguments for the resurrection f…Read more
  •  99
    Deep Conventionalism about Evolutionary Groups
    Philosophy of Science 80 (5): 971-982. 2013.
    We argue for a new conventionalism about many kinds of evolutionary groups, including clades, cohesive units, and populations. This rejects a consensus, which says that given any one of the many legitimate grouping concepts, only objective biological facts determine whether a collection is such a group. Surprisingly, being any one kind of evolutionary group typically depends on which of many incompatible values are taken by suppressed variables. This is a novel pluralism underlying most any one …Read more
  •  79
    The empirical inadequacy of species cohesion by Gene flow
    Philosophy of Science 74 (5): 654-665. 2007.
    This paper brings needed clarity to the influential view that species are cohesive entities held together by gene flow, and then develops an empirical argument against that view: Neglected data suggest gene flow is neither necessary nor sufficient for species cohesion. Implications are discussed. ‡I'm grateful to Rob Wilson, Alex Rueger and Lindley Darden for important comments on earlier drafts, and to Joseph Nagel, Heather Proctor, Ken Bond, members of the DC History and Philosophy of Biology …Read more
  •  75
    Biological Individuals
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1 (1). 2019.
    The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy als…Read more
  •  67
    The Biological Notion of Individual
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2013.
    Individuals are a prominent part of the biological world. Although biologists and philosophers of biology draw freely on the concept of an individual in articulating both widely accepted and more controversial claims, there has been little explicit work devoted to the biological notion of an individual itself. How should we think about biological individuals? What are the roles that biological individuals play in processes such as natural selection (are genes and groups also units of selection?)…Read more
  •  46
    Eliminative Pluralism and Integrative Alternatives: The Case of Species
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3): 657-681. 2019.
    Pluralisms of various sorts are popular in philosophy of science, including those that imply some scientific concept x should be eliminated from science in favour of a plurality of concepts x1, x2, … xn. This article focuses on influential and representative arguments for such eliminative pluralism about the concept species. The main conclusions are that these arguments fail, that all other extant arguments also fail, and that this reveals a quite general dilemma, one that poses a defeasible pre…Read more
  •  39
    From Cognition's Location to the Epistemology of its Nature
    Cognitive Systems Research 11 (357): 366. 2010.
    One of the liveliest debates about cognition concerns whether our cognition sometimes extends beyond our brains and bodies. One party says Yes, another No. This paper shows that debate between these parties has been epistemologically confused and requires reorienting. Both parties frequently appeal to empirical considerations and to extra-empirical theoretical virtues to support claims about where cognition is. These things should constrain their claims, but cannot do all the work hoped. This is…Read more
  •  30
    In this article applied and theoretical epistemologies benefit each other in a study of the British legal case of R. vs. Clark. Clark's first infant died at 11 weeks of age, in December 1996. About a year later, Clark had a second child. After that child died at eight weeks of age, Clark was tried for murdering both infants. Statisticians and philosophers have disputed how to apply Bayesian analyses to this case, and thereby arrived at different judgments about it. By dwelling on this applied ca…Read more
  •  17
    Species and Other Evolving Lineages as Feedback Systems
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11. 2019.
    Memorably in Nature, Jerry Coyne likened recalcitrant debates between species experts to barnacles on a whale, saying they “retard slightly the progress of the field”. However, experts have been happy to agree on at least this: species are evolving lineages. The importance of that putative fact, and of agreement about it, have been emphasized for over twenty years. Recent review works reaffirm both. But this lends some urgency to the unhappy fact that the exact nature of the implicated evolving …Read more
  •  15
    In this article applied and theoretical epistemologies benefit each other in a study of the British legal case of R. vs. Clark. Clark's first infant died at 11 weeks of age, in December 1996. About a year later, Clark had a second child. After that child died at eight weeks of age, Clark was tried for murdering both infants. Statisticians and philosophers have disputed how to apply Bayesian analyses to this case, and thereby arrived at different judgments about it. By dwelling on this applied ca…Read more
  •  9
    Environmentally Virtuous Agriculture: How and When External Goods and Humility Ethically Constrain (or Favour) Technology Use
    with Alana Lettner
    Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 30 (2): 287-309. 2017.
    This paper concerns virtue-based ethical principles that bear upon agricultural uses of technologies, such as GM crops and CRISPR crops. It does three things. First, it argues for a new type of virtue ethics approach to such cases. Typical virtue ethics principles are vague and unspecific. These are sometimes useful, but we show how to supplement them with more specific virtue ethics principles that are useful to people working in specific applied domains, where morally relevant domain-specific …Read more