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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 2014-10-19
    Eugene Earnshaw (forthcoming). Evolutionary Forces and the Hardy–Weinberg Equilibrium. Biology and Philosophy:1-15.
    The Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium has been argued by Sober, Stephens and others to represent the zero-force state for evolutionary biology understood as a theory of forces. I investigate what it means for a model to involve forces, developing an explicit account by defining what the zero-force state is in a general theoretical context. I use this account to show that Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium is not the zero-force state in biology even in the contexts in which it applies, and argue based on this (...)
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  2. added 2014-10-18
    Matthew H. Slater (2013). Are Species Real? An Essay on the Metaphysics of Species. Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. added 2014-10-18
    Francisco J. Ayala (2010). Darwin and Intelligent Design. In Science and Religion in Dialogue. Wiley-Blackwell. 749-766.
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  4. added 2014-10-14
    Leonore Fleming & Daniel McShea (2013). Drosophila Mutants Suggest a Strong Drive Toward Complexity in Evolution. Evolution and Development 15 (1):53-62.
    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 mutants in Drosophila melanogaster, which represent organisms that arise (...)
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  5. added 2014-10-14
    Leonore Fleming (2012). Network Theory and the Formation of Groups Without Evolutionary Forces. Evolutionary Biology 39 (1):94-105.
    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 diversity and complexity (...)
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  6. added 2014-10-10
    Emanuele Serrelli & Francesca Micol Rossi, A Conceptual Taxonomy of Adaptation in Evolutionary Biology.
    The concept of adaptation is employed in many fields such as biology, psychology, cognitive sciences, robotics, social sciences, even literacy and art,1 and its meaning varies quite evidently according to the particular research context in which it is applied. We expect to find a particularly rich catalogue of meanings within evolutionary biology, where adaptation has held a particularly central role since Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859) throughout important epistemological shifts and scientific findings that enriched and diversified the concept. Accordingly, (...)
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  7. added 2014-10-10
    Emanuele Serrelli, The Gaia Narrative and its Link with Symbiosis and Symbiogenesis.
    First, we will address the unnecessary link between symbio-studies and Gaia, asking for the historical and epistemological reasons why they become associated. In particular, we contend that the association is mediated by the common interest in large-scale physico-chemical and biochemical patterns, rather than by an emphasis on harmony, equilibrium, and cooperation (Visvader 1992). Second, we will ask what Gaia is in a metatheoretical sense: is it a scientific hypothesis, a theory, a metaphor, an inspired invention, or a resurgence of antiscientific (...)
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  8. added 2014-10-10
    Emanuele Serrelli (forthcoming). Evolutionary Genetics and Cultural Traits in a 'Body of Theory' Perspective. In Fabrizio Panebianco & Emanuele Serrelli (eds.), Understanding cultural traits. A multidisciplinary perspective on cultural diversity. Springer.
    The chapter explains why evolutionary genetics – a mathematical body of theory developed since the 1910s – eventually got to deal with culture: the frequency dynamics of genes like “the lactase gene” in populations cannot be correctly modeled without including social transmission. While the body of theory requires specific justifications, for example meticulous legitimations of describing culture in terms of traits, the body of theory is an immensely valuable scientific instrument, not only for its modeling power but also for the (...)
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  9. added 2014-10-05
    David Ludwig (forthcoming). Against the New Metaphysics of Race. Philosophy of Science.
    The aim of this article is to develop an argument against metaphysical debates about the existence of human races. I argue that the ontology of race is underdetermined by both empirical and non-empirical evidence due to a plurality of equally permissible candidate meanings of "race." Furthermore, I argue that this underdetermination leads to a deflationist diagnosis according to #hich disputes about the existence of human races are non-substantive verbal disputes. $hile this diagnosis resembles general deflationist strategies in contemporary metaphysics" I (...)
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  10. added 2014-10-05
    Matthew Kopec (forthcoming). Clines, Clusters, and Clades in the Race Debate. Philosophy of Science 81.
    Although there once was a general consensus among race scholars that applying race categories to humans is biologically illegitimate, this consensus has been erased over the past decade. This is largely due to advances in population genetics that allow biologists to pick out genetic population clusters that approximate some of our common sense racial categories. In this paper, I argue that this new ability really ought not undermine our confidence in the biological illegitimacy of the human races. Unfortunately, the claim (...)
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  11. added 2014-10-01
    Virginie Maris & Jean-Pierre Revéret (2009). Les limites de l’évaluation économique de la biodiversité. Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 4 (1):52-66.
    Devant le constat du déclin toujours plus rapide de la diversité biologique et les limites des res- sources disponibles pour l’enrayer, il est nécessaire de déterminer quels moyens devraient être engagés dans sa protection. Pour ce faire, une méthode efficace serait d’évaluer les bénéfices tirés de la biodiversité afin d’estimer rationnellement les coûts légitimes de sa protection. L’évaluation économique, qui se présente d’emblée sur un mode quantitatif, serait alors un outil précieux. Dans ce texte, nous présentons différentes méthodes d’évaluation économique (...)
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  12. added 2014-10-01
    Xabier Barandiaran & Alvaro Moreno (2008). Adaptivity: From Metabolism to Behavior. Adaptive Behavior 16 (5):325-344.
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  13. added 2014-09-25
    Spencer Phillips Hey (forthcoming). Heuristics and Meta-Heuristics in Scientific Judgment. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 2015.
    Despite the increasing recognition that heuristics may be involved in myriad scientific activities, much about how to use them prudently remains obscure. As typically defined, heuristics are efficient rules or procedures for converting complex problems into simpler ones. But this increased efficiency and problem-solving comes at the cost of a systematic bias. As Wimsatt (1980, 2007) showed, biased modeling heuristics can conceal errors, leading to poor decisions or inaccurate models. This liability to produce errors presents a fundamental challenge to the (...)
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  14. added 2014-09-25
    Charles T. Wolfe (2014). On the Role of Newtonian Analogies in Eighteenth-Century Life Science:Vitalism and Provisionally Inexplicable Explicative Devices. In Zvi Biener & Eric Schliesser (eds.), Newton and Empiricism. Oxford UP. 223-261.
    Newton’s impact on Enlightenment natural philosophy has been studied at great length, in its experimental, methodological and ideological ramifications. One aspect that has received fairly little attention is the role Newtonian “analogies” played in the formulation of new conceptual schemes in physiology, medicine, and life science as a whole. So-called ‘medical Newtonians’ like Pitcairne and Keill have been studied; but they were engaged in a more literal project of directly transposing, or seeking to transpose, Newtonian laws into quantitative models of (...)
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  15. added 2014-09-24
    Charles T. Wolfe (2014). The Organism as Ontological Go-Between. Hybridity, Boundaries and Degrees of Reality in its Conceptual History. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 1:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shps.
    The organism is neither a discovery like the circulation of the blood or the glycogenic function of the liver, nor a particular biological theory like epigenesis or preformationism. It is rather a concept which plays a series of roles – sometimes overt, sometimes masked – throughout the history of biology, and frequently in very normative ways, also shifting between the biological and the social. Indeed, it has often been presented as a key-concept in life science and the ‘theorization’ of Life, (...)
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  16. added 2014-09-23
    Thomas Pradeu (forthcoming). Galatea of the Microbes: Biological Identity as a Composite Reality. The Philosophers' Magazine.
    This paper shows that the identity of living things is a composite reality. It also suggests that the immune system constitutes a unifying process for the organism.
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  17. added 2014-09-23
    Brian Treanor (2014). Emplotting Virtue. SUNY Press.
    ethics does not stress the rule-based components of action guidance does not mean that virtue ethics has no room for such rules. Indeed, action- guiding rules are an important part of a fully elaborated virtue ethics. Two substantive claims ...
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  18. added 2014-09-17
    Jonathan Birch & James A. R. Marshall (2014). Queller's Separation Condition Explained and Defended. American Naturalist 184 (4):531-540.
    The theories of inclusive fitness and multilevel selection provide alternative perspectives on social evolution. The question of whether these perspectives are of equal generality remains a divisive issue. In an analysis based on the Price equation, Queller argued (by means of a principle he called the separation condition) that the two approaches are subject to the same limitations, arising from their fundamentally quantitative-genetical character. Recently, van Veelen et al. have challenged Queller’s results, using this as the basis for a broader (...)
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  19. added 2014-08-25
    Quayshawn Spencer (forthcoming). A Radical Solution to the Race Problem. Philosophy of Science.
    It has become customary among philosophers and biologists to claim that folk racial classification has no biological basis. This paper attempts to debunk that view. In this paper, I show that ‘race’, as used in current U.S. race talk, picks out a biologically real entity. I do this by, first, showing that ‘race’, in this use, is not a kind term, but a proper name for a set of human population groups. Next, using recent human genetic clustering results, I show (...)
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  20. added 2014-08-24
    James Justus (2013). Philosophical Issues in Ecology. In K. Kampourakis (ed.), Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer. 343–371.
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  21. added 2014-08-24
    Sahotra Sarkar, Conservation Biology. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Conservation biology emerged as an organized academic discipline in the United States in the 1980s though much of its theoretical framework was originally developed in Australia. Significant differences of approach in the two traditions were resolved in the late 1990s through the formulation of a consensus framework for the design and adaptive management of conservation area networks. This entry presents an outline of that framework along with a critical analysis of conceptual issues concerning the four theoretical problems that emerge from (...)
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  22. added 2014-08-12
    Hannes Rusch (2014). The Evolutionary Interplay of Intergroup Conflict and Altruism in Humans: A Review of Parochial Altruism Theory and Prospects for its Extension. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 281 (1794): 20141539.
    Drawing on an idea proposed by Darwin, it has recently been hypothesised that violent intergroup conflict might have played a substantial role in the evolution of human cooperativeness and altruism. The central notion of this argument, dubbed ‘parochial altruism’, is that the two genetic or cultural traits, aggressiveness against out-groups and cooperativeness towards the in-group, including self-sacrificial altruistic behaviour, might have coevolved in humans. This review assesses the explanatory power of current theories of ‘parochial altruism’. After a brief synopsis of (...)
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  23. added 2014-08-06
    Vincenzo Fano, Enrico Giannetto, Giulia Giannini & Pierluigi Graziani (2012). Complessità E Riduzionismo. ISONOMIA - Epistemologica Series Editor.
    The enormous increasing of connections between people and the noteworthy enlargement of domains and methods in sciences have augmented extraordinarily the cardinality of the set of meaningful human symbols. We know that complexity is always on the way to become complication, i.e. a non-tractable topic. For this reason scholars engage themselves more and more in attempting to tame plurality and chaos. In this book distinguished scientists, philosophers and historians of science reflect on the topic from a multidisciplinary point of view. (...)
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  24. added 2014-08-05
    Kevin McCain & Brad Weslake (2013). Evolutionary Theory and the Epistemology of Science. In Kostas Kampourakis (ed.), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer. 101-119.
    Evolutionary theory is a paradigmatic example of a well-supported scientific theory. In this chapter we consider a number of objections to evolutionary theory, and show how responding to these objections reveals aspects of the way in which scientific theories are supported by evidence. Teaching these objections can therefore serve two pedagogical aims: students can learn the right way to respond to some popular arguments against evolutionary theory, and they can learn some basic features of the structure of scientific theories and (...)
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  25. added 2014-08-04
    Thomas Pradeu, Sébastien Jaeger & Eric Vivier (2013). The Speed of Change: Towards a Discontinuity Theory of Immunity? Nature Reviews Immunology 13 (10):764–769.
    Immunology — though deeply experimental in everyday practice — is also a theoretical discipline. Recent advances in the understanding of innate immunity, how it is triggered and how it shares features that have previously been uniquely ascribed to the adaptive immune system, can contribute to the refinement of the theoretical framework of immunology. In particular, natural killer cells and macrophages are activated by transient modifications, but adapt to long-lasting modifications that occur in the surrounding tissue environment. This process facilitates the (...)
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  26. added 2014-08-01
    Elisabeth A. Lloyd & Stephen Crowley, Essentialism and Human Nature. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences.
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