Explanatory pluralism in evolutionary biology

Biology and Philosophy 11 (2):193-214 (1996)
The ontological dependence of one domain on another is compatible with the explanatory autonomy of the less basic domain. That autonomy results from the fact that the relationship between two domains can be very complex. In this paper I distinguish two different types of complexity, two ways the relationship between domains can fail to be transparent, both of which are relevant to evolutionary biology. Sometimes high level explanations preserve a certain type of causal or counterfactual information which would be lost at the lower level; I argue that this is central to the proper understanding of the adaptationist program. Sometimes high level kinds are multiply realised by lower level kinds: I argue that this is central to the understanding of macroevolution.
Keywords Adaptationism  avatars  competition  explanation  evolution  macroevolution  optimality  reductionism  species selection  species sorting
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DOI 10.1007/BF00128919
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Stuart Glennan (2002). Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
Patrick Forber (2010). Confirmation and Explaining How Possible. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (1):32-40.

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