John Wilkins University of Sydney, University of Melbourne
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Specialise in philosophy of biology and taxonomy, and philosophy of science in general.
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  1. John S. Wilkins, Essentialism in Biology.
    Essentialism in philosophy is the position that things, especially kinds of things, have essences, or sets of properties, that all members of the kind must have, and the combination of which only members of the kind do, in fact, have. It is usually thought to derive from classical Greek philosophy and in particular from Aristotle’s notion of “what it is to be” something. In biology, it has been claimed that pre-evolutionary views of living kinds, or as they are sometimes called, (...)
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  2. John S. Wilkins, Gods Above: Naturalizing Religion in Terms of Our Shared Ape Social Dominance Behavior.
    To naturalize religion we must identify what religion is, and what aspects of it we are trying to explain. In this paper religious social institutional behavior is the explanatory target, and an explanatory hypothesis based on shared primate social dominance psychology is given. The argument is that various religious features, including the high status afforded the religious, and the high status afforded to deities, is an expression of this social dominance psychology in a context for which it did not evolve: (...)
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  3. Paul E. Griffiths & John S. Wilkins (forthcoming). When Do Evolutionary Explanations of Belief Debunk Belief? In Darwin in the 21st Century.
    Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they produce are true, rather than merely useful? In this chapter we apply this argument to beliefs in three different domains: morality, religion, and science. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. The simplest reply to evolutionary scepticism is that the truth of beliefs (...)
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  4. John Wilkins (forthcoming). The Lost Plays of Sophocles. Classical Review.
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  5. John S. Wilkins (forthcoming). Biological Essentialism and the Tidal Change of Natural Kinds. Science and Education.
    The vision of natural kinds that is most common in the modern philosophy of biology, particularly with respect to the question whether species and other taxa are natural kinds, is based on a revision of the notion by Mill in A System of Logic. However, there was another conception that Whewell had previously captured well, which taxonomists have always employed, of kinds as being types that need not have necessary and sufficient characters and properties, or essences. These competing views employ (...)
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  6. John S. Wilkins (forthcoming). Review of the Cambridge Companion to Darwin. [REVIEW] Reports of the National Center for Science Education.
    Part I includes pieces by Phillip Sloan on how Darwin theorized evolution, Jon Hodge on the Notebooks and the years Darwin spent in London after the voyage of the Beagle , and essays on Darwin’s views on heredity (Jim Endersby), on mind and the emotions (Robert Richards) and the argument structure of the Origin (Ken Waters). All of these are excellent and nuanced, and well referenced, written by leading specialists on each topic. Endersby’s essay in particular introduced me to material (...)
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  7. John S. Wilkins (forthcoming). The Salem Region: Two Mindsets About Science. In Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.), The Philosophy of Pseudoscience. University of Chicago Press.
    It is often noted that if someone has a tertiary degree in a scientific field who promotes an anti-science-establishment, antiscience, or pseudoscience agenda, they are very often engineers, dentists, surgeons or medical practitioners. While this does not mean that all members of these professions or disciplines are antiscience, of course, the higher frequency of pseudoscience among them is indicative of what I call the “deductivist mindset” regarding science itself. Opposing this is the “inductivist mindset”, a view that has been deprecated (...)
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  8. John S. Wilkins & Paul E. Griffiths (forthcoming). Evolutionary Debunking Arguments in Three Domains: Fact, Value, and Religion. In James Maclaurin Greg Dawes (ed.), A New Science of Religion. Routledge.
    Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they produce are true, rather than merely useful? We consider this problem for beliefs in three different domains: religion, morality, and commonsense and scientific claims about matters of empirical fact. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. One reply is that evolution can be (...)
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  9. John Simpson Wilkins (forthcoming). The Origins of Species Concepts. Philosophy.
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  10. John S. Wilkins (2014). Philosophy of Biology, by Godfrey-Smith, Peter. :1-1.
    Philosophy of Biology, by Godfrey-Smith, Peter. . ???aop.label???. doi: 10.1080/00048402.2014.946428.
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  11. John S. Wilkins (2013). The Salem Region. In Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.), Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University of Chicago Press. 397.
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  12. John S. Wilkins & Malte C. Ebach (2013). The Nature of Classification: Relationships and Kinds in the Natural Sciences. Palgrave Macmillan.
    The Nature of Classification discusses an old and generally ignored issue in the philosophy of science: natural classification. It argues for classification to be a sometimes theory-free activity in science, and discusses the existence of scientific domains, theory-dependence of observation, the inferential relations of classification and theory, and the nature of the classificatory activity in general. It focuses on biological classification, but extends the discussion to physics, psychiatry, meteorology and other special sciences.
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  13. John S. Wilkins (2012). Could God Create Darwinian Accidents? Zygon 47 (1):30-42.
    Abstract Charles Darwin, in his discussions with Asa Gray and in his published works, doubted whether God could so arrange it that exactly the desired contingent events would occur to cause particular outcomes by natural selection. In this paper, I argue that even a limited or neo-Leibnizian deity could have chosen a world that satisfied some arbitrary set of goals or functions in its outcomes and thus answer Darwin's conundrum. In more general terms, this supports the consistency of natural selection (...)
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  14. John S. Wilkins (2012). Getting Over Systematics. Metascience 21 (2):383-386.
    Getting over systematics Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-012-9662-5 Authors John S. Wilkins, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2009, Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
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  15. John S. Wilkins, Ian Musgrave & Clem Stanyon (2012). Selection Without Replicators: The Origin of Genes, and the Replicator/Interactor Distinction in Etiobiology. Biology and Philosophy 27 (2):215-239.
    Genes are thought to have evolved from long-lived and multiply-interactive molecules in the early stages of the origins of life. However, at that stage there were no replicators, and the distinction between interactors and replicators did not yet apply. Nevertheless, the process of evolution that proceeded from initial autocatalytic hypercycles to full organisms was a Darwinian process of selection of favourable variants. We distinguish therefore between Neo-Darwinian evolution and the related Weismannian and Central Dogma divisions, on the one hand, and (...)
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  16. John S. Wilkins (2011). Philosophically Speaking, How Many Species Concepts Are There? Zootaxa 2765:58–60.
  17. John S. Wilkins (2010). Are Creationists Rational? Synthese 178 (2):207-218.
    Creationism is usually regarded as an irrational set of beliefs. In this paper I propose that the best way to understand why individual learners settle on any mature set of beliefs is to see that as the developmental outcome of a series of “fast and frugal” boundedly rational inferences rather than as a rejection of reason. This applies to those whose views are opposed to science in general. A bounded rationality model of belief choices both serves to explain the fact (...)
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  18. John S. Wilkins (2010). The Role of Secularism in Protecting Religion. In Warren Bonett (ed.), The Australian Book of Atheism. Embiggen Books.
  19. John S. Wilkins (2010). What is a Species? Essences and Generation. Theory in Biosciences 129:141-148.
    Arguments against essentialism in biology rely strongly on a claim that modern biology abandoned Aristotle's notion of a species as a class of necessary and sufficient properties. However, neither his theory of essentialism, nor his logical definition of species and genus (eidos and genos) play much of a role in biological research and taxonomy, including his own. The objections to natural kinds thinking by early twentieth century biologists wrestling with the new genetics overlooked the fact that species have typical developmental (...)
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  20. John S. Wilkins (2009). Defining Species: A Sourcebook From Antiquity to Today. Peter Lang Pub Inc.
    Defining Species: A Sourcebook from Antiquity to Today provides excerpts and commentary on the definition of «species from source material ranging from the ...
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  21. John S. Wilkins (2009). Species: A History of the Idea. Univ of California Pr.
    "--Joel Cracraft, American Museum of Natural History "This is not the potted history that one usually finds in texts and review articles.
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  22. John Wilkins (2008). The Selfish Meme. Metascience 17 (2):269-271.
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  23. John S. Wilkins (2008). The Adaptive Landscape of Science. Biology and Philosophy 23 (5):659-671.
    In 1988, David Hull presented an evolutionary account of science. This was a direct analogy to evolutionary accounts of biological adaptation, and part of a generalized view of Darwinian selection accounts that he based upon the Universal Darwinism of Richard Dawkins. Criticisms of this view were made by, among others, Kim Sterelny, which led to it gaining only limited acceptance. Some of these criticisms are, I will argue, no longer valid in the light of developments in the formal modeling of (...)
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  24. John S. Wilkins (2008). The Roles, Reasons and Restrictions of Science Blogs. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23 (8):411-413.
    Over the past few years, blogging (“web logging”) has become a major social movement, and as such includes blogs by scientists about science. Blogs are highly idiosyncratic, personal and ephemeral means of public expression, and yet they contribute to the current practice and reputation of science as much as, if not more than, any popular scientific work or visual presentation. It is important, therefore, to understand this phenomenon.
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  25. John S. Wilkins & Gareth J. Nelson (2008). Trémaux on Species: A Theory of Allopatric Speciation (and Punctuated Equilibrium) Before Wagner. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 30 (1):179-206.
    Pierre Trémaux’s 1865 ideas on speciation have been unjustly derided following his acceptance by Marx and rejection by Engels, and almost nobody has read his ideas in a charitable light. Here we offer an interpretation based on translating the term sol as “habitat”, in order to show that Trémaux proposed a theory of allopatric speciation before Wagner and a punctuated equilibrium theory before Gould and Eldredge, and translate the relevant discussion from the French. We believe he may have influenced Darwin’s (...)
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  26. John S. Wilkins (2007). Mayr's Centenary Festschrift. Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):603-610.
  27. John S. Wilkins (2007). Remembering Gould. Metascience 16 (1):169-173.
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  28. John S. Wilkins (2007). The Concept and Causes of Microbial Species. Studies in History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 28 (3):389-408.
    Species concepts for bacteria and other microbes are contentious, because they are often asexual. There is a Problem of Homogeneity: every mutation in an asexual lineage forms a new strain, of which all descendents are clones until a new mutation occurs. We should expect that asexual organisms would form a smear or continuum. What causes the internal homogeneity of asexual lineages, if they are in fact homogeneous? Is there a natural “species concept” for “microbes”? Two main concepts devised for metazoans (...)
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  29. John S. Wilkins (2007). The Dimensions, Modes and Definitions of Species and Speciation. Biology and Philosophy 22 (2):247-266.
    Speciation is an aspect of evolutionary biology that has received little philosophical attention apart from articles mainly by biologists such as Mayr (1988). The role of speciation as a terminus a quo for the individuality of species or in the context of punctuated equilibrium theory has been discussed, but not the nature of speciation events themselves. It is the task of this paper to attempt to bring speciation events into some kind of general scheme, based primarily upon the work of (...)
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  30. John S. Wilkins, Walter M. Fitch & Francisco J. Ayala (2007). Systematics and the Origin of Species: On Ernst Mayr's 100th Anniversary. Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):603-610.
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  31. John Wilkins (2006). Ron Amundson, The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 26 (1):1-3.
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  32. John S. Wilkins (2005). Is “Meme” a New “Idea”? Reflections on Aunger. Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):585-598.
    Memes are an idea whose time has come, again, and again, and again, but which has never really made it beyond metaphor. Anthropologist Robert Aunger’s book The Electric Meme is a new attempt to take it to the next stage, setting up a research program with proper models and theoretical entities. He succeeds partially, with some contributions to the logic of replication, but in the end, his proposal for the substrate of memes is a non-solution to a central problem of (...)
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  33. John S. Wilkins (2003). How to Be a Chaste Species Pluralist-Realist: The Origins of Species Modes and the Synapomorphic Species Concept. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 18 (5):621-638.
    The biological species (biospecies) concept applies only to sexually reproducing species, which means that until sexual reproduction evolved, there were no biospecies. On the universal tree of life, biospecies concepts therefore apply only to a relatively small number of clades, notably plants andanimals. I argue that it is useful to treat the various ways of being a species (species modes) as traits of clades. By extension from biospecies to the other concepts intended to capture the natural realities of what keeps (...)
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  34. John S. Wilkins (2001). Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (2):302 – 304.
    Book Information Tower of Babel: the evidence against the new creationism. By Robert T. Pennock. Bradford/MIT Press. Cambridge MA. 1999. Pp. xviii + 429.
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  35. John S. Wilkins & Wesley R. Elsberry (2001). The Advantages of Theft Over Toil: The Design Inference and Arguing From Ignorance. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 16 (5):711-724.
    Intelligent design theorist William Dembski has proposed an ``explanatory filter'' for distinguishing between events due to chance,lawful regularity or design. We show that if Dembski's filter were adopted as a scientific heuristic, some classical developments in science would not be rational, and that Dembski's assertion that the filter reliably identifies rarefied design requires ignoring the state of background knowledge. If background information changes even slightly, the filter's conclusion will vary wildly. Dembski fails to overcome Hume's objections to arguments from design.
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  36. John S. Wilkins (1998). The Evolutionary Structure of Scientific Theories. Biology and Philosophy 13 (4):479–504.
    David Hull's (1988c) model of science as a selection process suffers from a two-fold inability: (a) to ascertain when a lineage of theories has been established; i.e., when theories are descendants of older theories or are novelties, and what counts as a distinct lineage; and (b) to specify what the scientific analogue is of genotype and phenotype. This paper seeks to clarify these issues and to propose an abstract model of theories analogous to particulate genetic structure, in order to reconstruct (...)
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