Explanatory pluralism in paleobiology

Philosophy of Science 66 (3):236 (1999)
This paper is a defense of "explanatory pluralism" (i.e., the view that some events can be correctly explained in two distinct ways). To defend pluralism, I identify two distinct (but compatible) styles of explanation in paleobiology. The first approach ("actual sequence explanation") traces out the particular forces that affect each species. The second approach treats the trend as "passive" or "random" diffusion away from a boundary in morphological space. I argue that while these strategies are distinct, some trends are correctly explained in both ways. Further, since neither strategy can be reduced or eliminated from paleobiology, we should accept that both strategies can provide correct explanations for a single trend.
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DOI 10.1086/392727
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