•  5828
    Prisoners of Abstraction? The Theory and Measure of Genetic Variation, and the Very Concept of 'Race'
    with Jonathan Michael Kaplan
    Biological Theory 7 (1): 401-412. 2013.
    It is illegitimate to read any ontology about "race" off of biological theory or data. Indeed, the technical meaning of "genetic variation" is fluid, and there is no single theoretical agreed-upon criterion for defining and distinguishing populations (or groups or clusters) given a particular set of genetic variation data. Thus, by analyzing three formal senses of "genetic variation"—diversity, differentiation, and heterozygosity—we argue that the use of biological theory for making epistemic cl…Read more
  •  3864
    The Genetic Reification of 'Race'? A Story of Two Mathematical Methods
    Critical Philosophy of Race 2 (2): 204-223. 2014.
    Two families of mathematical methods lie at the heart of investigating the hierarchical structure of genetic variation in Homo sapiens: /diversity partitioning/, which assesses genetic variation within and among pre-determined groups, and /clustering analysis/, which simultaneously produces clusters and assigns individuals to these “unsupervised” cluster classifications. While mathematically consistent, these two methodologies are understood by many to ground diametrically opposed claims about t…Read more
  •  3726
    James and Dewey on Abstraction
    The Pluralist 9 (2): 1-28. 2014.
    Reification is to abstraction as disease is to health. Whereas abstraction is singling out, symbolizing, and systematizing, reification is neglecting abstractive context, especially functional, historical, and analytical-level context. William James and John Dewey provide similar and nuanced arguments regarding the perils and promises of abstraction. They share an abstraction-reification account. The stages of abstraction and the concepts of “vicious abstractionism,” “/the/ psychologist’s fallac…Read more
  •  3422
    Mapping Kinds in GIS and Cartography
    In Catherine Kendig (ed.), Natural Kinds and Classification in Scientific Practice, Routledge. pp. 197-216. forthcoming.
    Geographic Information Science (GIS) is an interdisciplinary science aiming to detect and visually represent patterns in spatial data. GIS is used by businesses to determine where to open new stores and by conservation biologists to identify field study locations with relatively little anthropogenic influence. Products of GIS include topographic and thematic maps of the Earth’s surface, climate maps, and spatially referenced demographic graphs and charts. In addition to its social, political,…Read more
  •  2525
    Realism, Antirealism, and Conventionalism about Race
    with Jonathan Michael Kaplan
    Philosophy of Science 81 (5): 1039-1052. 2014.
    This paper distinguishes three concepts of "race": bio-genomic cluster/race, biological race, and social race. We map out realism, antirealism, and conventionalism about each of these, in three important historical episodes: Frank Livingstone and Theodosius Dobzhansky in 1962, A.W.F. Edwards' 2003 response to Lewontin (1972), and contemporary discourse. Semantics is especially crucial to the first episode, while normativity is central to the second. Upon inspection, each episode also reveals a v…Read more
  •  1984
    Multiculturalism requires sustained and serious philosophical reflection, which in turn requires public outreach and communication. This piece briefly outlines concerns raised by the philosophy of multiculturalism and, conversely, multiculturalism in philosophy, which ultimately force us to reconsider the philosopher’s own role and responsibility. I conclude with a provocative suggestion of philosophy as /public diplomacy/. (As this is intended to be a piece for a general audience, secondary lit…Read more
  •  1839
    World Navels
    Cartouche of the Canadian Cartographic Association 89 15-21. 2014.
  •  1763
    Interweaving categories: Styles, paradigms, and models
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (4): 628-639. 2012.
    Analytical categories of scientific cultures have typically been used both exclusively and universally. For instance, when styles of scientific research are employed in attempts to understand and narrate science, styles alone are usually employed. This article is a thought experiment in interweaving categories. What would happen if rather than employ a single category, we instead investigated several categories simultaneously? What would we learn about the practices and theories, the agents and …Read more
  •  1644
    August Weismann on Germ-Plasm Variation
    Journal of the History of Biology 34 (3): 517-555. 2001.
    August Weismann is famous for having argued against the inheritance of acquired characters. However, an analysis of his work indicates that Weismann always held that changes in external conditions, acting during development, were the necessary causes of variation in the hereditary material. For much of his career he held that acquired germ-plasm variation was inherited. An irony, which is in tension with much of the standard twentieth-century history of biology, thus exists – Weismann was not a …Read more
  •  1556
    Darwin on Variation and Heredity
    Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3): 425-455. 2000.
    Darwin's ideas on variation, heredity, and development differ significantly from twentieth-century views. First, Darwin held that environmental changes, acting either on the reproductive organs or the body, were necessary to generate variation. Second, heredity was a developmental, not a transmissional, process; variation was a change in the developmental process of change. An analysis of Darwin's elaboration and modification of these two positions from his early notebooks (1836-1844) to the las…Read more
  •  1420
    The mind, the lab, and the field: Three kinds of populations in scientific practice
    with Ryan Giordano, Michael D. Edge, and Rasmus Nielsen
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 52 12-21. 2015.
    Scientists use models to understand the natural world, and it is important not to conflate model and nature. As an illustration, we distinguish three different kinds of populations in studies of ecology and evolution: theoretical, laboratory, and natural populations, exemplified by the work of R.A. Fisher, Thomas Park, and David Lack, respectively. Biologists are rightly concerned with all three types of populations. We examine the interplay between these different kinds of populations, and t…Read more
  •  1259
    Tom Stoppard’s 1966 play (and 1990 movie) /Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead/ is a metatext – as a text, it interprets, builds upon, and refers to another text, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Similarly, David N. Reznick’s /The Origin then and now: An interpretative guide to the Origin of Species/ (Princeton UP, 2010) is also a metatext. In this review, I turn to the history of science to evaluate whether Reznick’s book shares three families of virtues with Stoppard’s play: (i) brevity and precision, …Read more
  •  1008
    Introduction: Genomics and Philosophy of Race
    with Roberta L. Millstein and Rasmus Nielsen
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 52 1-4. 2015.
    This year’s topic is “Genomics and Philosophy of Race.” Different researchers might work on distinct subsets of the six thematic clusters below, which are neither mutually exclusive nor collectively exhaustive: (1) Concepts of ‘Race’; (2) Mathematical Modeling of Human History and Population Structure; (3) Data and Technologies of Human Genomics; (4) Biological Reality of Race; (5) Racialized Selves in a Global Context; (6) Pragmatic Consequences of ‘Race Talk’ among Biologists.
  •  1004
    There are two fundamentally distinct kinds of biological theorizing. "Formal biology" focuses on the relations, captured in formal laws, among mathematically abstracted properties of abstract objects. Population genetics and theoretical mathematical ecology, which are cases of formal biology, thus share methods and goals with theoretical physics. "Compositional biology," on the other hand, is concerned with articulating the concrete structure, mechanisms, and function, through developmental and …Read more
  •  931
    Consciousness Modeled: Reification and Promising Pluralism
    Pensamiento 67 (254): 617-630. 2011.
    Paradoxically, explorers of the territory of consciousness seem to be studying consciousness out of existence, from inside the field of "consciousness studies". How? Through their love of the phenomenon/process, they have developed powerful single models or lenses through which to understand consciousness. But in doing so, they also seek to destroy the other /equally useful/ lenses. Our opportunity lies in halting the vendettas and cross-speakings/cross-fire. The imploration is to stop the dicho…Read more
  •  903
    Varieties of Modules: Kinds, Levels, Origins, and Behaviors
    Journal of Experimental Zoology 291 116-129. 2001.
    This article began as a review of a conference, organized by Gerhard Schlosser, entitled “Modularity in Development and Evolution.” The conference was held at, and sponsored by, the Hanse Wissenschaftskolleg in Delmenhorst, Germany in May, 2000. The article subsequently metamorphosed into a literature and concept review as well as an analysis of the differences in current perspectives on modularity. Consequently, I refer to general aspects of the conference but do not review particular presentat…Read more
  •  865
    Alternative Definitions of Epistasis: Dependence and Interaction
    with Michael J. Wade, Aneil F. Agrawal, and Charles J. Goodnight
    Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16 (9): 498-504. 2001.
    Although epistasis is at the center of the Fisher-Wright debate, biologists not involved in the controversy are often unaware that there are actually two different formal definitions of epistasis. We compare concepts of genetic independence in the two theoretical traditions of evolutionary genetics, population genetics and quantitative genetics, and show how independence of gene action (represented by the multiplicative model of population genetics) can be different from the absence of gene inte…Read more
  •  839
    I investigate how theoretical assumptions, pertinent to different perspectives and operative during the modeling process, are central in determining how nature is actually taken to be. I explore two different models by Michael Turelli and Steve Frank of the evolution of parasite-mediated cytoplasmic incompatility, guided, respectively, by Fisherian and Wrightian perspectives. Since the two models can be shown to be commensurable both with respect to mathematics and data, I argue that the differe…Read more
  •  824
    Evo-Devo as a Trading Zone
    In Alan Love (ed.), Conceptual Change in Biology: Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Evolution and Development, Springer Verlag, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. 2015.
    Evo-Devo exhibits a plurality of scientific “cultures” of practice and theory. When are the cultures acting—individually or collectively—in ways that actually move research forward, empirically, theoretically, and ethically? When do they become imperialistic, in the sense of excluding and subordinating other cultures? This chapter identifies six cultures – three /styles/ (mathematical modeling, mechanism, and history) and three /paradigms/ (adaptationism, structuralism, and cladism). The key ass…Read more
  •  799
    Pluralism in evolutionary controversies: styles and averaging strategies in hierarchical selection theories
    with Michael J. Wade and Christopher C. Dimond
    Biology and Philosophy 28 (6): 957-979. 2013.
    Two controversies exist regarding the appropriate characterization of hierarchical and adaptive evolution in natural populations. In biology, there is the Wright-Fisher controversy over the relative roles of random genetic drift, natural selection, population structure, and interdemic selection in adaptive evolution begun by Sewall Wright and Ronald Aylmer Fisher. There is also the Units of Selection debate, spanning both the biological and the philosophical literature and including the impassio…Read more
  •  746
    Review of Space, Time, and Number in the Brain (review)
    Mathematical Intelligencer 37 (2): 93-98. 2015.
    Albert Einstein once made the following remark about "the world of our sense experiences": "the fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle." (1936, p. 351) A few decades later, another physicist, Eugene Wigner, wondered about the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences, concluding his classic article thus: "the miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor des…Read more
  •  661
    I motivate the concept of styles of scientific investigation, and differentiate two styles, formal and compositional. Styles are ways of doing scientific research. Radically different styles exist. I explore the possibility of the unification of biology and social science, as well as the possibility of unifying the two styles I identify. Recent attempts at unifying biology and social science have been premised almost exclusively on the formal style. Through the use of a historical example of def…Read more
  •  618
    Ontologies and Politics of Biogenomic 'Race'
    with Jonathan Michael Kaplan
    Theoria. A Journal of Social and Political Theory (South Africa) 60 (3): 54-80. 2013.
    All eyes are turned towards genomic data and models as the source of knowledge about whether human races exist or not. Will genomic science make the final decision about whether racial realism (e.g., racial population naturalism) or anti-realism (e.g., racial skepticism) is correct? We think not. We believe that the results of even our best and most impressive genomic technologies underdetermine whether bio-genomic races exist, or not. First, different sub-disciplines of biology interested …Read more
  •  608
    Should we think of our universe as law-governed and “clockwork”-like or as disorderly and “soup”-like? Alternatively, should we consciously and intentionally synthesize these two extreme pictures? More concretely, how deterministic are the postulated causes and how rigid are the modeled properties of the best statistical methodologies used in the biological and behavioral sciences? The charge of this entry is to explore thinking about causation in the temporal evolution of biological and behavio…Read more
  •  584
    Mathematical Modeling in Biology: Philosophy and Pragmatics
    Frontiers in Plant Evolution and Development 2012 1-3. 2012.
    Philosophy can shed light on mathematical modeling and the juxtaposition of modeling and empirical data. This paper explores three philosophical traditions of the structure of scientific theory—Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic—to show that each illuminates mathematical modeling. The Pragmatic View identifies four critical functions of mathematical modeling: (1) unification of both models and data, (2) model fitting to data, (3) mechanism identification accounting for observation, and (4) pre…Read more
  •  552
    Systemic Darwinism
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (33): 11833-11838. 2008.