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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 2014-11-26
    Thomas Pradeu (forthcoming). Toolbox Murders: Putting Genes in Their Epigenetic and Ecological Contexts: A Review of Griffiths and Stotz, Genetics and Philosophy: An Introduction. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy.
    Griffiths and Stotz’s Genetics and Philosophy: An Introduction offers a very good overview of scientific and philosophical issues raised by present-day genetics. Examining, in particular, the questions of how a “gene” should be defined and what a gene does from a causal point of view, the authors explore the different domains of the life sciences in which genetics has come to play a decisive role, from Mendelian genetics to molecular genetics, behavioural genetics, and evolution. In this review, I highlight what (...)
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  2. added 2014-11-23
    Heather Dyke & James Maclaurin (2013). Evolutionary Explanations of Temporal Experience. In Heather Dyke & Adrian Bardon (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Time. Wiley-Blackwell. 521-535.
    A common approach in the Philosophy of Time, particularly in enquiry into the metaphysical nature of time, has been to examine various aspects of the nature of human temporal experience, and ask what, if anything, can be discerned from this about the nature of time itself. Many human traits have explanations that reside in facts about our evolutionary history. We ask whether features of human temporal experience might admit of such evolutionary explanations. We then consider the implications of any proposed (...)
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  3. added 2014-11-22
    Trevor Pearce (2014). The Dialectical Biologist, Circa 1890: John Dewey and the Oxford Hegelians. Journal of the History of Philosophy 52 (4):747-777.
    I argue in this paper that rather than viewing John Dewey as either a historicist (inspired by Hegel) or a naturalist (inspired by biology), we should see him as strange but potentially fruitful combination of both. I will demonstrate that the notion of organism-environment interaction central to Dewey’s pragmatism stems from a Hegelian approach to adaptation; his turn to biology was not necessarily a turn away from Hegel. I argue that Dewey’s account of the organism-environment relation derives from the work (...)
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  4. added 2014-11-18
    Sarah E. Fredericks (2014). Ethics in Agenda 21. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):324-338.
    Although environmental ethicists often focus on applying ethics to policy, the ethics embedded in policy documents such as Agenda 21 are also significant. Though largely ignored by ethicists after early responses to the document focused on intrinsic value, Agenda 21's ethics are particularly valuable for their ability to resonate with many people and link politics, technical studies, and ethics. For instance, their use draws attention to the need to ethically evaluate sustainability indexes and identifies limitations of existing indexes. At a (...)
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  5. added 2014-11-18
    Chad J. McGuire (2014). Losing the Message: Some Policy Implications of Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments for Environmental Protection. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):261-263.
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  6. added 2014-11-18
    Duncan Purves (2014). Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments and Anthropocentric Moral Attitudes. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):267-270.
    Anthropocentric indirect arguments (AIAs), which call for specific policies or actions because of human benefits that are correlated with but not caused by benefits to the environment, are gaining increasing traction with those who take a pragmatic approach to environmental protection. I contend that nonanthropocentrists might remain justifiably uneasy about AIAs because such arguments fail to challenge prevailing speciesist moral attitudes. I close by considering whether Elliott can address this concern of nonanthropocentrists by appealing to the ability of AIAs to (...)
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  7. added 2014-11-18
    Laura Smith (2014). On the 'Emotionality' of Environmental Restoration: Narratives of Guilt, Restitution, Redemption and Hope. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):286-307.
    This paper presents a moral?emotional critique of environmental restoration, through discussion of narratives of redemption. The importance of ?redemption? vis-à-vis other environmental discourses rests with its capacity to unpack how, why and in what circumstances the idea of ?putting something back? for nature exerts a hold on the popular imagination. This paper thus examines the ethical and emotional experiences bound up in restoration discourses, to identify the motives deployed to confront shame and an associated guilt, and achieve restitution. In turn, (...)
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  8. added 2014-11-18
    Kevin C. Elliott (2014). Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments for Environmental Protection. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):243-260.
    Environmental ethicists have devoted considerable attention to discussing whether anthropocentric or nonanthropocentric arguments provide more appropriate means for defending environmental protection. This paper argues that philosophers, scientists, and policy makers should pay more attention to a particular type of anthropocentric argument. These anthropocentric indirect arguments (AIAs) defend actions or policies that benefit the environment, but they justify the policies based on beneficial effects on humans (e.g., new jobs, cost savings, stronger communities) that are not caused by their environmental benefits. AIAs (...)
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  9. added 2014-11-18
    Jeremy Bendik-Keymer (2014). Living Up to Our Humanity: The Elevated Extinction Rate Event and What It Says About Us. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):339-354.
    Either we are in an elevated extinction rate event or in a mass extinction. Scientists disagree, and the matter cannot be resolved empirically until it is too late. We are the cause of the elevated extinction rate. What does this say about us, we who are Homo sapiens?the wise hominid? Beginning with the Renaissance and spreading during the 18th century, the normative notion of humanity has arisen to stand for what expresses our dignity as humans?specifically our thoughtfulness, in the double (...)
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  10. added 2014-11-18
    Thomas Heyd (2014). Symbolically Laden Sites in the Landscape and Climate Change. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):355-369.
    Attention is drawn to the threat posed by climate change to symbolically laden places, landscapes and landmarks, and suggested that, insofar as some of those sites are treated as sacred by certain populations, their disturbance may be especially problematic. Special consideration is given to the significance glacial retreat for local, nearby populations, and its importance from the point of view of climate justice and ethics is discussed. The potential value of iconic sites from the perspective of engagement and action on (...)
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  11. added 2014-11-18
    David Storey (2014). 'Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments for Environmental Protection,' Kevin Elliott; Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments: A Risky Business? Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):279-282.
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  12. added 2014-11-18
    Jennifer Mcerlean (2014). The Accidental Environmentalist: Elliott on Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):283-285.
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  13. added 2014-11-18
    Francesca Pongiglione (2014). Motivation for Adopting Pro-Environmental Behaviors: The Role of Social Context. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):308-323.
    This article investigates the origin of the lack of motivation for adopting significant pro-environmental behavior (PEB). I identify three main barriers to motivation: the feeling that there is a need for broad collective (including, though not limited to, institutional and political) action that has not yet materialized, the lack of practical knowledge about what an individual can do in his/her daily life to address environmental problems, and insufficient feedback and approval mechanisms. Subsequently, I argue that an individual's social context may (...)
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  14. added 2014-11-18
    Dan C. Shahar (2014). Integrity Versus Expediency for Non-Anthropocentrists. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):271-274.
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  15. added 2014-11-18
    Greg Bothun (2014). Do Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments Have Any Scientific Validity? A Commentary on Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments for Environmental Protection, by K. Elliot. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):275-278.
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  16. added 2014-11-18
    Eric Katz (2014). Anthropocentric Indirect Arguments: Return of the Plastic-Tree Zombies. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):264-266.
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  17. added 2014-11-18
    David R. Morrow (2014). Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering/A Case for Climate Engineering. Ethics, Policy and Environment 17 (3):370-373.
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  18. added 2014-11-17
    Esteban Hasson (ed.) (2012). Darwin En El Sur, Ayer y Hoy: Contribuciones de la 1ra. Reunión de Biología Evolutiva Del Cono Sur. Libros Del Rojas, Universidad de Buenos Aires.
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  19. added 2014-11-15
    David Ludwig (forthcoming). Indigenous and Scientific Kinds. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    The aim of this article is to discuss the relation between indigenous and scientific kinds on the basis of contemporary ethnobiological research. I argue that ethnobiological accounts of taxonomic convergence-divergence patters challenge common philosophical models of the relation between folk concepts and natural kinds. Furthermore, I outline a positive model of taxonomic convergence-divergence patterns that is based on Slater's [2014] notion of “stable property clusters” and Franklin-Hall's [2014] discussion of natural kinds as “categorical bottlenecks.” Finally, I argue that this model (...)
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  20. added 2014-11-11
    Geoffrey K. Chambers (forthcoming). Understanding Complexity: Are We Making Progress? Biology and Philosophy:1-10.
    In recent years a new conceptual tool called Complexity Theory has come to the attention of scientists and philosophers. This approach is concerned with the emergent properties of interacting systems. It has found wide applicability from cosmology to Social Structure Analysis. However, practitioners are still struggling to find the best way to define complexity and then to measure it. A new book Complexity and the arrow of time by Lineweaver et al. (2013) contains contributions from scholars who provide critical reviews (...)
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  21. added 2014-11-11
    Thomas Ferenci & Ram Maharjan (forthcoming). Mutational Heterogeneity: A Key Ingredient of Bet-Hedging and Evolutionary Divergence? Bioessays:n/a-n/a.
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  22. added 2014-11-11
    David Hull (1999). On the Plurality of Species: Questioning the Party Line. In R. Wilson (ed.), Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays. MIT Press. 23-48.
  23. added 2014-11-11
    Ernst Mayr & Peter D. Ashlock (1991). Principles of Systematic Zoology. McGraw-Hill.
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  24. added 2014-11-11
    Ernst Mayr (1970). Populations, Species and Evolution: An Abridgment of Animal Species and Evolution. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
    In the Preface of Animal Species and Evolution (1963), I wrote that it was "an attempt to summarize and review critically what we know about the biology and genetics of animal species and their role in evolution." The result was a volume of XIV ...
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  25. added 2014-11-11
    Ernst Mayr (1963). Animal Species and Evolution. Belknap of Harvard University Press.
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  26. added 2014-11-11
    Ernst Mayr (1942). Systematics and the Origin of Species From the Viewpoint of a Zoologist. Columbia University Press.
    WE HAVE LEARNED in the preceding chapter that a revolutionary change of the species concept is in the making, a change which not only affects taxonomic procedure, but which also contributes considerably toward a better understanding of ...
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  27. added 2014-11-09
    Emanuele Serrelli, The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: A Metascientific View of Evolutionary Biology, and Some Directions to Transcend its Limits.
    To approach the issue of the recent proposal of an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) put forth by Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd Müller, I suggest to consider the EES as a metascientific view: a description of what’s new in how evolutionary biology is carried out, not only a description of recently learned aspects of evolution. Knowing ‘what is it to do research’ in evolutionary biology, today versus yesterday, can aid training, research and career choices, establishment of relationships and collaborations, decision of (...)
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  28. added 2014-11-07
    Brendan Mahoney (2014). Heidegger and the Art of Technology. Environmental Philosophy 11 (2):279-306.
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  29. added 2014-11-07
    Nicolae Morar (2014). "The Human Microbiome: Ethical, Legal, and Social Concerns" Edited by Rosamond Rhodes, Nada Gligorov, and Abraham Paul Schwab. Environmental Philosophy 11 (2):362-366.
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  30. added 2014-11-07
    David Seamon (2014). "Romantic Geography: In Search of the Sublime Landscape" by Yi-Fu Tuan. Environmental Philosophy 11 (2):369-372.
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  31. added 2014-11-07
    Ilan Safit (2014). Nature Screened. Environmental Philosophy 11 (2):211-235.
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  32. added 2014-11-07
    Luke Fischer (2014). "Thinking Like a Plant: A Living Science for Life" by Craig Holdrege. Environmental Philosophy 11 (2):359-362.
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  33. added 2014-11-07
    Peter Schultz (2014). "Negotiating Climate Change: Radical Democracy and the Illusion of Consensus" by Amanda Machin. Environmental Philosophy 11 (2):366-369.
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  34. added 2014-11-07
    Cian Whelan (2014). "From Mastery to Mystery: A Phenomenological Foundation for an Environmental Ethic" by Bryan E. Bannon. Environmental Philosophy 11 (2):372-374.
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  35. added 2014-11-03
    Olivier Rieppel (2008). Origins, Taxa, Names and Meanings. Cladistics 24:598-610.
    In a recent contribution, Ereshefsky (2007a) maintained the following points against Nixon and Carpenter (2000), Keller et al. (2003), and Rieppel (2005a, 2006a,b): (1) that species and taxa are individuals, not natural kinds; (2) that “origin essentialism” conflates qualitative essentialism with genealogical connectedness; and (3) that rigid designation theory applies to taxon names. Here I argue that: (1) the conception of species as individuals or natural kinds is not mutually exclusive but rather context sensitive; species are best seen as spatio-temporally (...)
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  36. added 2014-10-30
    Emanuele Serrelli, Traits and Functions in the Evolution of Morality.
    This paper is about evolutionary explanations. They come in different kinds but mostly need traits and functions. Evolutionary theory requires traits to be inheritable although not in a strong genetic sense: ideas of “inheritance pattern” and “inheritable pattern” are explored. Function is also a necessary concept, but complex and diverse, and it lacks causal power on traits. The debate on the evolution of morality is cautious and already far from naive “just-­‐so story” explanations, but theoretical analysis fleshed into morality-­‐related examples (...)
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  37. added 2014-10-30
    Nicholas Maxwell (2010). Darwinian Theory Reinterpreted. In N. Maxwell (ed.), Cutting God in Half - And Putting the Pieces Together Again: A New Approach to Philosophy. Pentire Press. 264-300.
    It is argued that purposive action of living things plays a crucial role in Darwinian evolution. As evolution proceeds, the mechanisms of evolution evolve as well, giving an increasingly important role to purposive action - to be understood in a sense which is compatible with physics (the atom of purposiveness being the thermostat). Nine versions of Darwinian theory are distinguished. The first denies that purposive action has any role in evolution at all; each successive version gives an inceasingly important role (...)
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  38. added 2014-10-28
    Marcel Weber, On the Incompatibility of Biological Dynamical Mechanisms and Causal Graph Theory.
    I examine the adequacy of the causal graph-structural equations approach to causation for modeling biological mechanisms. I focus in particular on mechanisms with complex dynamics such as the PER biological clock mechanism in Drosophila. I show that a quantitative model of this mechanism that uses coupled differential equations – the well-known Goldbeter model – cannot be adequately represented in the standard (interventionist) causal graph framework, even though this framework does permit causal cycles. The reason is that the model contains dynamical (...)
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  39. added 2014-10-22
    Katie McShane (2014). Individualist Biocentrism Vs. Holism Revisited. Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 9 (2):130-148.
    While holist views such as ecocentrism have considerable intuitive appeal, arguing for the moral considerability of ecological wholes such as ecosystems has turned out to be a very difficult task. In the environmental ethics literature, individualist biocentrists have persuasively argued that individual organisms—but not ecological wholes—are properly regarded as having a good of their own . In this paper, I revisit those arguments and contend that they are fatally flawed. The paper proceeds in five parts. First, I consider some problems (...)
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  40. added 2014-10-18
    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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  41. added 2014-10-17
    Matthew H. Slater (2013). Are Species Real? An Essay on the Metaphysics of Species. Palgrave Macmillan.
  42. 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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  43. 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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  44. 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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  45. 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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  46. 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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  47. 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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  48. 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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  49. added 2014-10-01
    Xabier Barandiaran & Alvaro Moreno (2008). Adaptivity: From Metabolism to Behavior. Adaptive Behavior 16 (5):325-344.
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  50. 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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