Groups, individuals, and evolutionary restraints : the making of the contemporary debate over group selection Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-14 DOI 10.1007/s10539-011-9255-5 Authors AndrewHamilton, Center for Biology and Society, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4501 USA Christopher C. Dimond, Center for Biology and Society, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4501 USA Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867.
This article serves as an introduction to the laws-of-biology debate. After introducing the main issues in an introductory section, arguments for and against laws of biology are canvassed in Section 2. In Section 3, the debate is placed in wider epistemological context by engaging a group of scholars who have shifted the focus away from the question of whether there are laws of biology and toward offering good accounts of explanation(s) in the biological sciences. Section 4 introduces two relatively new (...) pieces of science – metabolic scaling theory and ecological stoichiometry – that have not been topics of much discussion by philosophers but are relevant because they have at least some of the hallmarks of laws of nature. Section 5 concludes by pointing out that discovering laws of biology, if any there be, will not necessarily answer the questions raised by the debate in the first place: we will still want to know how biology compares to other sciences, how to characterize its systems and processes, and whether accounts in terms of laws always or usually constitute adequate explanations in various sciences. (shrink)
Philosophy of biology is a vibrant and growing field. From initial roots in the metaphysics of species (Ghiselin, Hull), questions about whether biology has laws of nature akin to those of physics (Ruse, Hull), and discussions of teleology and function (Grene 1974, Brandon 1981), the field has grown since the 1970s to include a vast range of topics. Over the last few decades, philosophy has had an important impact on biology, partly through following the model of engagement with science that (...) was set by first-wave philosophers of biology like Marjorie Grene, Morton Beckner, David Hull, William Wimsatt and others. Today some parts of philosophy of biology are indistinguishable from theoretical biology. This is due in part to the impetus provided by second-wave philosophers of biology like James Griesemer, John Beatty, William Bechtel, Robert Brandon, Elisabeth Lloyd, and Elliott Sober. Indeed, philosophers have been instrumental in establishing theoretical biology as a field by collaborating with scientists, publishing in science journals, and by taking up conceptual questions at the heart of the biological enterprise. (shrink)
1. A Historical Look at Unity 2. Field Guide to Modern Concepts of Reduction and Unity 3. Kitcher's Revisionist Account of Unification 4. Critics of Unity 5. Integration Instead of Unity 6. Reduction via Mechanisms 7. Case Studies in Reduction and Unification across the Disciplines.
Causation is in trouble?at least as it is pictured in current theories in philosophy and in economics as well, where causation is also once again in fashion. In both disciplines the accounts of causality on offer are either modelled too closely on one or another favoured method for hunting causes or on assumptions about the uses to which causal knowledge can be put?generally for predicting the results of our efforts to change the world. The first kind of account supplies no (...) reason to think that causal knowledge, as it is pictured, is of any use; the second supplies no reason to think our best methods will be reliable for establishing causal knowledge. So, if these accounts are all there is to be had, how do we get from method to use? Of what use is knowledge of causal laws that we work so hard to obtain? (shrink)
The world is an untidy place, and the sciences—all of them—reflect this. One source of this untidiness is the relationship between levels of organization. Reducing macrolevels to microlevels—explaining the former in terms of the latter—has met with successes but has never been the whole story. In the biological sciences, there has been much attention lately to the shortcomings of reductionism on the grounds that (i) it changes the subject rather than explaining, (ii) it leads to a myopically molecular view of (...) the biological world, and (iii) the behavior or behaviors of complex systems are often very poorly predicted based solely on their microproperties. It is just for these reasons that biologists of many stripes have called for a move away from reductionism and toward a new kind of biology for the 21st century. But what shape might this new biology take? (shrink)
Exploring whether clades can reproduce leads to new perspectives on general accounts of biological development and individuation. Here we apply James Griesemer's general account of reproduction to clades. Griesemer's account of reproduction includes a requirement for development, raising the question of whether clades may bemeaningfully said to develop. We offer two illustrative examples of what clade development might look like, though evaluating these examples proves difficult due to the paucity of general accounts of development. This difficulty, however, is instructive about (...) what a general account of development should look like and how it may usefully be applied to research problems (further suggesting a means for evaluating general accounts of development). Reproduction also requires individuation of parent and offspring. We argue that there is no special problem of individuating older and younger clades. The vagaries involved with determining when clades begin, mature, and end are precisely the same as those that arise when the same questions are asked of cells, organisms, or species. Though the question of clade reproduction and selection may still be open, the process of discovery presents new insights into old problems. (shrink)
Samir Okasha argues that clade selection is an incoherent concept, because the relation that constitutes clades is such that it renders parent-offspring (reproduction) relations between clades impossible. He reasons that since clades cannot reproduce, it is not coherent to speak of natural selection operating at the clade level. We argue, however, that when species-level lineages and clade-level lineages are treated consistently according to standard cladist commitments, clade reproduction is indeed possible and clade selection is coherent if certain conditions obtain. Despite (...) clade selection’s logical coherence, however, we share some of Okasha’s pessimism. Whether or not clades are a unit of selection is ultimately a question of empirical support and theoretical import, but we offer reasons to be skeptical about clade selection as a research programme. (shrink)
India has a long, rich, and diverse tradition of philosophical thought, spanning some two and a half millenia and encompassing several major religious traditions. Now, in this intriguing introduction to Indian philosophy, the diversity of Indian thought is emphasized. It is structured around six schools of thought that have received classic status. Sue Hamilton explores how the traditions have attempted to understand the nature of reality in terms of inner or spiritual quest and introduces distinctively Indian concepts, such as (...) karma and rebirth. She also explains how Indian thinkers have understood issues of reality and knowledge-issues that re also an important part of the Western philosophical tradition. (shrink)
Concepts in Film Theory is a continuation of Dudley Andrew's classic, The Major Film Theories. In writing now about contemporary theory, Andrew focuses on the key concepts in film study -- perception, representation, signification, narrative structure, adaptation, evaluation, identification, figuration, and interpretation. Beginning with an introductory chapter on the current state of film theory, Andrew goes on to build an overall view of film, presenting his own ideas on each concept, and giving a sense of the interdependence (...) of these concepts. Andrew provides lucid explanations of theories which involve perceptual psychology and structuralism; semiotics and psychoanalysis; hermeneutics and genre study. His clear approach to these often obscure theories enables students to acquire the background they need to enrich their understanding of film -- and of art. (shrink)
Hamilton argues that theatrical performances have always been regarded as works produced for inspection and evaluation in their own right. The reason this has been obscured is the enormously successful text-based literary tradition in modern European theater. To show why this is as it should be, Hamilton shows how theater's spectators pick out, grasp, and assess performances without reference to the texts they employ, even within that successful literary tradition.
Hamilton explains why "drama" is a category of literature rather than of theater, even though it is appropriate to describe many theatrical performances as "dramatic." Consideration of the possibilities of theatrical performance are especially important to this category of literature, but need not be (and often are not) decisive in constraining interpretations of dramatic works.
Hamilton argues that narratives engage our imaginations not so much by having us pretend the events they depict are true or present as by having us engage in a kind of anticipation of events to come. The idea is that the grasp of a narratively structured presentation is explained in very much the same way any sequence of events, considered as a sequence, is grasped.
Hamilton shows how awareness of the uses of space -- in particular uses of space in which to stage an event of any kind -- enable spectators to pick out characters, props, and the like across performances within production runs, across production runs, and even across productions employing different scripts. The key ideas of object identification are taken both from the philosophical and the empirical literature and are treated as epistemic ideas rather than metaphysical conceptions.
Hamilton argues that there is a level of understanding of theatrical performances, and narrative performances in particular (called "plays"), that does not require grasp of the large-scale aesthetic features that usually inform the structure of what is presented. This "basic understanding" is required for any spectator to go on to have a deeper understanding and, so, grounds any spectator's understanding of the larger-scale features of a performance.
We have synthesized a 582,970-base pair Mycoplasma genitalium genome. This synthetic genome, named M. genitalium JCVI-1.0, contains all the genes of wild-type M. genitalium G37 except MG408, which was disrupted by an antibiotic marker to block pathogenicity and to allow for selection. To identify the genome as synthetic, we inserted "watermarks" at intergenic sites known to tolerate transposon insertions. Overlapping "cassettes" of 5 to 7 kilobases (kb), assembled from chemically synthesized oligonucleotides, were joined by in vitro recombination to produce intermediate (...) assemblies of approximately 24 kb, 72 kb ("1/8 genome"), and 144 kb ("1/4 genome"), which were all cloned as bacterial artificial chromosomes in Escherichia coli. Most of these intermediate clones were sequenced, and clones of all four 1/4 genomes with the correct sequence were identified. The complete synthetic genome was assembled by transformation-associated recombination cloning in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, then isolated and sequenced. A clone with the correct sequence was identified. The methods described here will be generally useful for constructing large DNA molecules from chemically synthesized pieces and also from combinations of natural and synthetic DNA segments. 10.1126/science.1151721. (shrink)
Reid rejects the image theory --the representative or indirect realist position--that memory-judgements are inferred from or otherwise justified by a present image or introspectible state. He also rejects the trace theory , which regards memories as essentially traces in the brain. In contrast he argues for a direct knowledge account in which personal memory yields unmediated knowledge of the past. He asserts the reliability of memory, not in currently fashionable terms as a reliable belief-forming process, but more elusively as a (...) principle of Commonsense. There remains a contemporary consensus against Reid's position. I argue that Reid's critique is essentially sound, and that the consensus is mistaken; personal memory judgements are spontaneous and non-inferential in the same way as perceptual judgements. But I question Reid's account of the connection between personal memory and personal identity. My primary concern is rationally reconstructive rather than scholarly, and downplays recent interpretations of Reid's faculty psychology as a precursor of functionalism and other scientific philosophies of mind. (shrink)
: Before he studied philosophy under Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein was trained as an engineer at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin. He then worked as a graduate research engineer at the University of Manchester, where he designed a variable volume combustion chamber and received a patent for an innovative propeller design in 1911. I argue that the methodology of contemporary aeronautical engineering research, involving the systematic use of experiments and scale models, affected the Bild theory of language in the Tractatus (...) Logico-Philosophicus. The principle of similitude, underlying the mathematical resolution of scale effect problems associated with wind tunnel research on models, is reflected in the law of projection in the Tractatus. (shrink)
In an incendiary 2010 Nature article, M. A. Nowak, C. E. Tarnita, and E. O. Wilson present a savage critique of the best-known and most widely used framework for the study of social evolution, W. D. Hamilton’s theory of kin selection. More than a hundred biologists have since rallied to the theory’s defence, but Nowak et al. maintain that their arguments ‘stand unrefuted’. Here I consider the most contentious claim Nowak et al. defend: that Hamilton’s rule, the core (...) explanatory principle of kin selection theory, ‘almost never holds’. I first distinguish two versions of Hamilton’s rule in contemporary theory: a special version (HRS) that requires restrictive assumptions, and a general version (HRG) that does not. I then show that Nowak et al. are most charitably construed as arguing that HRS almost never holds, while HRG buys its generality at the expense of explanatory power. While their arguments against HRS are fairly uncontroversial, their arguments against HRG are more contentious, yet these have been largely overlooked in the ensuing furore. I consider the arguments for and against the explanatory value of HRG, with a view to assessing what exactly is at stake in the debate. I suggest that the debate hinges on issues concerning the causal interpretability of regression coefficients, and concerning the explanatory function Hamilton’s rule is intended to serve. 1 Nature Red in Tooth and Claw2 Two Versions of Hamilton’s Rule2.1 The special version (HRS)2.2 The general version (HRG)2.3 The rules compared3 How They Come Apart: A Simple Illustration3.1 Why HRS often fails3.2 Why HRG always holds4 A Dilemma for Hamilton’s Defenders5 HRG and Explanatory Power I: The ‘Tautology Problem’ Redux6 HRG and Explanatory Power II: Prediction versus Unification6.1 The predictive limitations of HRG6.2 The unification response6.3 A worry about this response6.4 Causal interpretation revisited7 The Heart of the Matter. (shrink)