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Philosophy of Biology

Edited by John Wilkins (University of Sydney, University of Melbourne)
Assistant editor: Justin Bzovy (University of Western Ontario)
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  1. added 2015-07-30
    Katherine Nelson (forthcoming). Quantitative and Qualitative Research in Psychological Science. Biological Theory.
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  2. added 2015-07-29
    Eric Dietrich (2015). Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World. Columbia.
    This is a book about us and our science. Science is so natural to humans that to be human is to do science. But surprisingly, our science has given us two ideas that utterly change the way we ought to see ourselves and the universe we grew up in. Stated baldly, the two ideas are evolution and mystery. I use the term “mystery” carefully. The mysteries explored here are truths which science has discovered but which we can only weakly understand. (...)
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  3. added 2015-07-28
    Ingo Brigandt (forthcoming). Do We Need a ‘Theory’ of Development? Biology and Philosophy:1-15.
    Edited by Alessandro Minelli and Thomas Pradeu, Towards a Theory of Development gathers essays by biologists and philosophers, which display a diversity of theoretical perspectives. The discussions not only cover the state of art, but broaden our vision of what development includes and provide pointers for future research. Interestingly, all contributors agree that explanations should not just be gene-centered, and virtually none use design and other engineering metaphors to articulate principles of cellular and organismal organization. I comment in particular on (...)
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  4. added 2015-07-28
    Nicholas Maxwell (1984). The Generalized Darwinian Research Programme. In From Knowledge to Wisdom. Blackwell 269-275.
    The generalized Darwinian research programme accepts physicalism, but holds that all life is purposive in character. It seeks to understand how and why all purposiveness has evolved in the universe – especially purposiveness associated with what we value most in human life, such as sentience, consciousness, person-to-person understanding, science, art, free¬dom, love. As evolution proceeds, the mechanisms of evolution themselves evolve to take into account the increasingly important role that purposive action can play - especially when quasi-Lamarckian evolution by cultural (...)
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  5. added 2015-07-27
    Sara Green (forthcoming). Revisiting Generality in Biology: Systems Biology and the Quest for Design Principles. Biology and Philosophy:1-24.
    Due to the variation, contingency and complexity of living systems, biology is often taken to be a science without fundamental theories, laws or general principles. I revisit this question in light of the quest for design principles in systems biology and show that different views can be reconciled if we distinguish between different types of generality. The philosophical literature has primarily focused on generality of specific models or explanations, or on the heuristic role of abstraction. This paper takes a different (...)
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  6. added 2015-07-25
    Donald R. Forsdyke (forthcoming). Wittgenstein’s Certainty is Uncertain: Brain Scans of Cured Hydrocephalics Challenge Cherished Assumptions. Biological Theory.
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  7. added 2015-07-25
    Justin C. Havird, Matthew D. Hall & Damian K. Dowling (forthcoming). The Evolution of Sex: A New Hypothesis Based on Mitochondrial Mutational Erosion. Bioessays:n/a-n/a.
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  8. added 2015-07-25
    Olivier Morin (forthcoming). A Plea for “Shmeasurement” in the Social Sciences. Biological Theory.
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  9. added 2015-07-18
    Milan Petrovic & Dietmar Schmucker (forthcoming). Axonal Wiring in Neural Development: Target-Independent Mechanisms Help to Establish Precision and Complexity. Bioessays:n/a-n/a.
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  10. added 2015-07-17
    Matteo Favaretti Camposampiero (forthcoming). Bodies of Inference: Christian Wolff's Epistemology of the Life Sciences and Medicine. Perspectives on Science 24 (3).
    This paper explores Christian Wolff’s attempt to introduce his scientific method in the life sciences and medicine. As one can expect in the light of recent scholarship, Wolff firmly relies on experience and shares Pitcairne’s conviction that physicians should imitate astronomers in basing their claims on observations. However, Wolff’s rational foundation of medicine also highlights the heuristic value of hypotheses, the use of a priori explanations in pathology, the teleological character and metaphysical import of physiological and medical concepts. Thus, his (...)
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  11. added 2015-07-10
    Joeri Witteveen (forthcoming). Suppressing Synonymy with a Homonym: The Emergence of the Nomenclatural Type Concept in Nineteenth Century Natural History. Journal of the History of Biology.
    ‘Type’ in biology is a polysemous term. In a landmark article, Paul Farber (Journal of the History of Biology 9(1): 93–119, 1976) argued that this deceptively plain term had acquired three different meanings in early nineteenth century natural history alone. ‘Type’ was used in relation to three distinct type concepts, each of them associated with a different set of practices. Important as Farber’s analysis has been for the historiography of natural history, his account conceals an important dimension of early nineteenth (...)
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  12. added 2015-07-10
    Elisabeth A. Lloyd (forthcoming). Adaptationism and the Logic of Research Questions: How to Think Clearly About Evolutionary Causes. Biological Theory.
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  13. added 2015-07-03
    Robert Arp, Barry Smith & Andrew Spear (forthcoming). Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology. MIT Press, August 7, 2015.
    In the era of “big data,” science is increasingly information driven, and the potential for computers to store, manage, and integrate massive amounts of data has given rise to such new disciplinary fields as biomedical informatics. Applied ontology offers a strategy for the organization of scientific information in computer-tractable form, drawing on concepts not only from computer and information science but also from linguistics, logic, and philosophy. This book provides an introduction to the field of applied ontology that is of (...)
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  14. added 2015-07-02
    Olivier Rieppel (2007). Species: Kinds of Individuals or Individuals of a Kind. Cladistics 23:373-384.
    The “species-as-individuals” thesis takes species, or taxa, to be individuals. On grounds of spatiotemporal boundedness, any biological entity at any level of complexity subject to evolutionary processes is an individual. From evolutionary theory flows an ontology that does not countenance universal properties shared by evolving entities. If austere nominalism were applied to evolving entities, however, nature would be reduced to a mere flow of passing events, each one a blob in space–time and hence of passing interest only. Yet if there (...)
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  15. added 2015-07-02
    Ernst Mayr (1978). Evolution. Scientific American 239:46-55.
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  16. added 2015-07-02
    David B. Kitts (1978). Theoretics and Systematics: A Reply to Cracraft, Nelson, and Patterson. Systematic Zoology 27 (2):222-224.
  17. added 2015-07-02
    David B. Kitts (1977). Karl Popper, Verifiability, and Systematic Zoology. Systematic Zoology 26 (2):185-194.
  18. added 2015-06-28
    Chris F. Taylor, Dawn Field, Susanna-Assunta Sansone, Jan Aerts, Rolf Apweiler, Michael Ashburner, Catherine A. Ball, Pierre-Alain Binz, Molly Bogue, Tim Booth, Alvis Brazma, Ryan R. Brinkman, Adam Michael Clark, Eric W. Deutsch, Oliver Fiehn & Jennifer Fostel, Promoting Coherent Minimum Reporting Guidelines for Biological and Biomedical Investigations: The MIBBI Project.
    Throughout the biological and biomedical sciences there is a growing need for, prescriptive ‘minimum information’ (MI) checklists specifying the key information to include when reporting experimental results are beginning to find favor with experimentalists, analysts, publishers and funders alike. Such checklists aim to ensure that methods, data, analyses and results are described to a level sufficient to support the unambiguous interpretation, sophisticated search, reanalysis and experimental corroboration and reuse of data sets, facilitating the extraction of maximum value from data sets (...)
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  19. added 2015-06-26
    Susana Monsó (forthcoming). Empathy and Morality in Behaviour Readers. Biology and Philosophy:1-20.
    It is tempting to assume that being a moral creature requires the capacity to attribute mental states to others, because a creature cannot be moral unless she is capable of comprehending how her actions can have an impact on the well-being of those around her. If this assumption were true, then mere behaviour readers could never qualify as moral, for they are incapable of conceptualising mental states and attributing them to others. In this paper, I argue against such an assumption (...)
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  20. added 2015-06-26
    Beckett Sterner (forthcoming). Pathways to Pluralism About Biological Individuality. Biology and Philosophy:1-20.
    What are the prospects for a monistic view of biological individuality given the multiple epistemic roles the concept must satisfy? In this paper, I examine the epistemic adequacy of two recent accounts based on the capacity to undergo natural selection. One is from Ellen Clarke, and the other is by Peter Godfrey-Smith. Clarke’s position reflects a strong monism, in that she aims to characterize individuality in purely functional terms and refrains from privileging any specific material properties as important in their (...)
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  21. added 2015-06-26
    Marc Ereshefsky (2014). Consilience, Historicity, and the Species Problem. In R. Paul Thompson & Denis Walsh (eds.), Evolutionary biology: conceptual, ethical, and religious issues. Cambridge 65-86.
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  22. added 2015-06-25
    Hannes Rusch & Eckart Voland (forthcoming). Human Agricultural Economy is, and Likely Always Was, Largely Based on Kinship. Why? Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
    Commentary on J. Gowdy & L. Krall "The economic origins of ultrasociality": We question the sequence of evolutionary transitions leading to ultrasociality in humans proposed by Gowdy & Krall. Evidence indicates that families are, and likely always have been, the primary productive units in human agricultural economies, suggesting that genetic relatedness is key to understanding when the suppression of individual autonomy to the benefit of subsistence groups, i.e. extended families, evolved.
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  23. added 2015-06-24
    Robert Böhm, Hannes Rusch & Özgür Gürerk (forthcoming). What Makes People Go to War? Defensive Intentions Motivate Retaliatory and Preemptive Intergroup Aggression. Evolution and Human Behavior.
    Although humans qualify as one of the most cooperative animal species, the scale of violent intergroup conflict among them is unparalleled. Explanations of the underlying motivations to participate in an intergroup conflict, however, remain unsatisfactory. While previous research shows that intergroup conflict increases individually costly behavior to the benefit of the in-group, it has failed to identify robust triggers of aggressive behavior directed at out-groups. Here, we present a controlled laboratory experiment which demonstrates that such aggression can be provoked systematically (...)
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  24. added 2015-06-24
    Yu Gao, Adrian Raine & Robert A. Schug (2012). Somatic Aphasia: Mismatch of Body Sensations with Autonomic Stress Reactivity in Psychopathy. Biological Psychology 90:228–233.
    Background— Although one of the main characteristics of psychopaths is a deficit in emotion, it is unknown whether they show a fundamental impairment in appropriately recognizing their own body sensations during an emotion-inducing task. Method— Skin conductance and heart rate were recorded in 138 males during a social stressor together with subjective reports of body sensations. Psychopathic traits were assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R) 2nd edition (Hare, 2003). Results— Nonpsychopathic controls who reported higher body sensations showed higher (...)
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  25. added 2015-06-24
    Koshy Tharakan (2011). Anthropocentrism and Ecocentrism: On the Metaphysical Debate in Environmental Ethics. Jadavpur Journal of Philosophy 21 (2):27-42.
  26. added 2015-06-23
    Franck Varenne, Pierre Chaigneau, Jean Petitot & René Doursat (2015). Programming the Emergence in Morphogenetically Architected Systems. Acta Biotheoretica 63 (3).
    Large sets of elements interacting locally and producing specific architectures reliably form a category that transcends the usual dividing line between biological and engineered systems. We propose to call them morphogenetically architected complex systems (MACS). While taking the emergence of properties seriously, the notion of MACS enables at the same time the design (or “meta-design”) of operational means that allow controlling and even, paradoxically, programming this emergence. To demonstrate our claim, we first show that among all the self-organized systems studied (...)
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  27. added 2015-06-22
    Jack Birner (2015). F. A. Hayek’s The Sensory Order: An Evolutionary Perspective? Biological Theory 10 (2):167-175.
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  28. added 2015-06-22
    Stuart A. Newman (2015). Notes on Stepping In. Biological Theory 10 (2):101-102.
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  29. added 2015-06-22
    William Yaworsky, Mark Horowitz & Kenneth Kickham (2015). Gender and Politics Among Anthropologists in the Units of Selection Debate. Biological Theory 10 (2):145-155.
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  30. added 2015-06-22
    Emanuele Archetti (2015). Three Kinds of Constructionism: The Role of Metaphor in the Debate Over Niche Constructionism. Biological Theory 10 (2):103-115.
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  31. added 2015-06-22
    Vidyanand Nanjundiah & Michel Morange (2015). Aging, Sex Ratio, and Genomic Imprinting: Functional and Evolutionary Explanations in Biology. Biological Theory 10 (2):125-133.
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  32. added 2015-06-22
    Brian McLoone (2015). Some Criticism of the Contextual Approach, and a Few Proposals. Biological Theory 10 (2):116-124.
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  33. added 2015-06-22
    Yoshinari Yoshida & Hisashi Nakao (2015). EvoDevo as a Motley Aggregation: Local Integration and Conflicting Views of Genes During the 1980s. Biological Theory 10 (2):156-166.
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  34. added 2015-06-22
    James DiFrisco, Gaëlle Pontarotti, Federico Boem, Guillaume Schlaepfer, Ewelina Sokolowska & Eva Fernández-Labandera (2015). Ontological Issues in the Life Sciences. Biological Theory 10 (2):176-181.
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  35. added 2015-06-19
    Masayuki Hirano (forthcoming). Evolution of Vertebrate Adaptive Immunity: Immune Cells and Tissues, and AID/APOBEC Cytidine Deaminases. Bioessays:n/a-n/a.
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  36. added 2015-06-18
    David Ellerman, On Adjoint and Brain Functors.
    There is some consensus among orthodox category theorists that the concept of adjoint functors is the most important concept contributed to mathematics by category theory. We give a heterodox treatment of adjoints using heteromorphisms (object-to-object morphisms between objects of different categories) that parses an adjunction into two separate parts (left and right representations of heteromorphisms). Then these separate parts can be recombined in a new way to define a cognate concept, the brain functor, to abstractly model the functions of perception (...)
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  37. added 2015-06-16
    Ray Scott Percival (1995). Science Evolving. [REVIEW] Nature 376 (6536):131-132.
    MICHAEL Ruse aims to describe what scientists actually do in their research and how they arrive at their theories — a mixed bag of false starts, fallacious reasoning, the cultivation of followers, the marketing of ideas and so on. His approach, evolutionary naturalism, rejects the traditional distinction between the normative and the descriptive analysis of science. For him the path of discovery to, say, Darwin's theory of natural selection makes a difference to the theory itself, whereas for the normative analyst (...)
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  38. added 2015-06-16
    Ray Scott Percival (1994). Natural Selections. [REVIEW] Nature 371 (6499):666-667.
    How do you put both physicists and biologists on their guard? Answer: propound a philosophical theory that ignores Darwin's demolition of essentialism in species and brands any physicist who denies your theory of natural kinds as an anti-realist. A traditional division in philosophy is between metaphysics (what sorts of things exist) and epistemology (what and how we know). Some think that the core of realism is the metaphysical assumption that there is a world independent of our minds. But this core (...)
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  39. added 2015-06-15
    Guy Bennett-Hunter (2015). Emergence, Emergentism and Pragmatism. Theology and Science 13 (3).
    In this paper, I argue for the usefulness of pragmatism as a framework within which to develop the theological application of emergentist theory. I consider some philosophical issues relevant to the recent revival of interest, across various disciplines, in the concept of emergence and clarify some of the conceptual issues at stake in the attempts to formulate the philosophical position of emergentism and to apply it theologically. After highlighting some major problems arising from the main existing ways of formulating emergentism, (...)
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  40. added 2015-06-15
    Laura Perini (2013). Diagrams in Biology. The Knowledge Engineering Review 28 (3):273-286.
    Biologists depend on visual representations, and their use of diagrams has drawn the attention of philosophers, historians, and sociologists interested in understanding how these images are involved in biological reasoning. These studies, however, proceed from identification of diagrams on the basis of their spare visual appearance, and do not draw on a foundational theory of the nature of diagrams as representations. This approach has limited the extent to which we under- stand how these diagrams are involved in biological reasoning. In (...)
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  41. added 2015-06-15
    Laura Perini (2012). Form and Function: A Semiotic Analysis of Figures in Biology Textbooks. In Nancy Anderson & Michael Dietrich (eds.), The Educated Eye Visual Culture and Pedagogy in the Life Sciences. 235-254.
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  42. added 2015-06-11
    on the Integrated Frameworks (2011). On the Integrated Frameworks of Species Concepts: Mayden's Hierarchy of Species Concepts and de Queiroz's Unified Concept of Species. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 49 (3):177-184.
    Richard L. Mayden and Kevin de Queiroz have devised and developed ‘a hierarchy of species concepts’ and ‘a unified species concept’, respectively. Although their integrated frameworks of species concepts are rather different as to how to integrate the diverse modern concepts of species, the end result is that they are likely to agree on species recognition in nature, because they virtually share the same major components (i.e. evolutionary or lineage concept of species; same way of delimiting species), and have the (...)
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  43. added 2015-06-11
    Richard L. Mayden (1999). Consilience and a Hierarchy of Species Concepts: Advances Toward Closure on the Species Puzzle. Journal of Nematology 31 (2):95–116.
    Numerous concepts exist for biological species. This diversity of ideas derives from a number of sources ranging from investigative study of particular taxa and character sets to philosophical aptitude and world view to operationalism and nomenclatorial rules. While usually viewed as counterproductive, in reality these varied concepts can greatly enhance our efforts to discover and understand biological diversity. Moreover, this continued "turf war" and dilemma over species can be resolved if the various concepts are viewed in a hierarchical system and (...)
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  44. added 2015-06-11
    Richard L. Mayden & R. M. Wood (1995). Systematics, Species Concepts, and the Evolutionarily Significant Unit in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology. In J. L. Nielson (ed.), Evolution and the aquatic ecosystem: Defining unique units in population conservation. Special Publication No. 17. American Fisheries Society 58–113.
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  45. added 2015-06-11
    David L. Hull (1980). Individuality and Selection. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 11:311-332.
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  46. added 2015-06-09
    Ernst Mayr (1940). Speciation Phenomena in Birds. American Naturalist 74 (752):249-278.
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  47. added 2015-06-05
    Christine James (2015). Data Science and Mass Media: Seeking a Hermeneutic Ethics of Information. Proceedings of the Society for Phenomenology and Media, Vol. 15, 2014, Pages 49-58 15 (2014):49-58.
    In recent years, the growing academic field called “Data Science” has made many promises. On closer inspection, relatively few of these promises have come to fruition. A critique of Data Science from the phenomenological tradition can take many forms. This paper addresses the promise of “participation” in Data Science, taking inspiration from Paul Majkut’s 2000 work in Glimpse, “Empathy’s Impostor: Interactivity and Intersubjectivity,” and some insights from Heidegger’s "The Question Concerning Technology." The description of Data Science provided in the scholarly (...)
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  48. added 2015-06-05
    Daniel S. Brooks (2014). The Role of Models in the Process of Epistemic Integration: The Case of the Reichardt Motion Detector. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 36 (1):90-113.
  49. added 2015-06-04
    Miles MacLeod (forthcoming). Heuristic Approaches to Models and Modeling in Systems Biology. Biology and Philosophy:1-20.
    Prediction and control sufficient for reliable medical and other interventions are prominent aims of modeling in systems biology. The short-term attainment of these goals has played a strong role in projecting the importance and value of the field. In this paper I identify the standard models must meet to achieve these objectives as predictive robustness—predictive reliability over large domains. Drawing on the results of an ethnographic investigation and various studies in the systems biology literature, I explore four current obstacles to (...)
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  50. added 2015-06-04
    Alberto Acerbi & Alex Mesoudi (2015). If We Are All Cultural Darwinians What’s the Fuss About? Clarifying Recent Disagreements in the Field of Cultural Evolution. Biology and Philosophy 30 (4):481-503.
    Cultural evolution studies are characterized by the notion that culture evolves accordingly to broadly Darwinian principles. Yet how far the analogy between cultural and genetic evolution should be pushed is open to debate. Here, we examine a recent disagreement that concerns the extent to which cultural transmission should be considered a preservative mechanism allowing selection among different variants, or a transformative process in which individuals recreate variants each time they are transmitted. The latter is associated with the notion of “cultural (...)
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