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Profile: Charles H. Pence (Louisiana State University)
  1. Charles H. Pence & Grant Ramsey (2013). A New Foundation for the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):851-881.
    The propensity interpretation of fitness (PIF) is commonly taken to be subject to a set of simple counterexamples. We argue that three of the most important of these are not counterexamples to the PIF itself, but only to the traditional mathematical model of this propensity: fitness as expected number of offspring. They fail to demonstrate that a new mathematical model of the PIF could not succeed where this older model fails. We then propose a new formalization of the PIF that (...)
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  2.  67
    Charles H. Pence (forthcoming). Is Genetic Drift a Force? Synthese:1-22.
    One hotly debated philosophical question in the analysis of evolutionary theory concerns whether or not evolution and the various factors which constitute it may profitably be considered as analogous to “forces” in the traditional, Newtonian sense. Several compelling arguments assert that the force picture is incoherent, due to the peculiar nature of genetic drift. I consider two of those arguments here—that drift lacks a predictable direction, and that drift is constitutive of evolutionary systems—and show that they both fail to demonstrate (...)
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  3. Grant Ramsey & Charles H. Pence (2013). Fitness: Philosophical Problems. eLS.
    Fitness plays many roles throughout evolutionary theory, from a measure of populations in the wild to a central element in abstract theoretical presentations of natural selection. It has thus been the subject of an extensive philosophical literature, which has primarily centered on the way to understand the relationship between fitness values and reproductive outcomes. If fitness is a probabilistic or statistical quantity, how is it to be defined in general theoretical contexts? How can it be measured? Can a single conceptual (...)
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  4. Charles H. Pence (2011). Nietzsche’s Aesthetic Critique of Darwin. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 33 (2):165-190.
    Despite his position as one of the first philosophers to write in the “post- Darwinian” world, the critique of Darwin by Friedrich Nietzsche is often ignored for a host of unsatisfactory reasons. I argue that Nietzsche’s critique of Darwin is important to the study of both Nietzsche’s and Darwin’s impact on philosophy. Further, I show that the central claims of Nietzsche’s critique have been broadly misunderstood. I then present a new reading of Nietzsche’s core criticism of Darwin. An important part (...)
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  5. Charles H. Pence (2011). “Describing Our Whole Experience”: The Statistical Philosophies of W. F. R. Weldon and Karl Pearson. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (4):475-485.
    There are two motivations commonly ascribed to historical actors for taking up statistics: to reduce complicated data to a mean value (e.g., Quetelet), and to take account of diversity (e.g., Galton). Different motivations will, it is assumed, lead to different methodological decisions in the practice of the statistical sciences. Karl Pearson and W. F. R. Weldon are generally seen as following directly in Galton’s footsteps. I argue for two related theses in light of this standard interpretation, based on a reading (...)
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  6. Charles H. Pence & Lara Buchak (2012). Oyun: A New, Free Program for Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma Tournaments in the Classroom. Evolution Education and Outreach 5 (3):467-476.
    Evolutionary applications of game theory present one of the most pedagogically accessible varieties of genuine, contemporary theoretical biology. We present here Oyun (OY-oon, http://charlespence.net/oyun), a program designed to run iterated prisoner’s dilemma tournaments, competitions between prisoner’s dilemma strategies developed by the students themselves. Using this software, students are able to readily design and tweak their own strategies, and to see how they fare both in round-robin tournaments and in “evolutionary” tournaments, where the scores in a given “generation” directly determine contribution (...)
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  7. Charles H. Pence, Charles Darwin and Sir John F. W. Herschel: Nineteenth-Century Science and its Methodology.
    There is a bewildering variety of claims connecting Darwin to nineteenth-century philosophy of science – including to Herschel, Whewell, Lyell, German Romanticism, Comte, and others. I argue here that Herschel's influence on Darwin is undeniable. The form of this influence, however, is often misunderstood. Darwin was not merely taking the concept of "analogy" from Herschel, nor was he combining such an analogy with a consilience as argued for by Whewell. On the contrary, Darwin's Origin is written in precisely the manner (...)
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  8.  12
    Charles H. Pence (2015). The Early History of Chance in Evolution. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 50:48-58.
    Work throughout the history and philosophy of biology frequently employs ‘chance’, ‘unpredictability’, ‘probability’, and many similar terms. One common way of understanding how these concepts were introduced in evolution focuses on two central issues: the first use of statistical methods in evolution (Galton), and the first use of the concept of “objective chance” in evolution (Wright). I argue that while this approach has merit, it fails to fully capture interesting philosophical reflections on the role of chance expounded by two of (...)
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  9.  21
    Charles H. Pence (2015). Military Genomic Testing: Proportionality, Expected Benefits, and the Connection Between Genotypes and Phenotypes. Journal of Law and the Biosciences 2 (1):85-91.
    Mehlman and Li offer a framework for approaching the bioethical issues raised by the military use of genomics that is compellingly grounded in both the contemporary civilian and military ethics of medical research, arguing that military commanders must be bound by the two principles of paternal- ism and proportionality. I agree fully. But I argue here that this is a much higher bar than we may fully realize. Just as the principle of proportionality relies upon a thorough assessment of harms (...)
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  10.  7
    Charles H. Pence, Putting Process and Product Conceptions of Natural Selection and Genetic Drift to the Test.
    This paper argues for two claims. First, despite a persistent appearance to the contrary in the philosophy of biology literature, the question of whether natural selection and genetic drift should be defined as processes or as the products of those processes is independent of the question of whether natural selection and genetic drift are causally efficacious. Second, there exist biological cases – cases which are quite prevalent in natural populations – that can be used to drive apart process and product (...)
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  11.  28
    Hope Hollocher, Agustin Fuentes, Charles H. Pence, Grant Ramsey, Daniel John Sportiello & Michelle M. Wirth (2011). On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. [REVIEW] Quarterly Review of Biology 86 (2):137-138.
  12.  3
    Charles H. Pence & Grant Ramsey (2015). Is Organismic Fitness at the Basis of Evolutionary Theory? Philosophy of Science 82 (5):1081-1091.
    Fitness is a central theoretical concept in evolutionary theory. Despite its importance, much debate has occurred over how to conceptualize and formalize fitness. One point of debate concerns the roles of organismic and trait fitness. In a recent addition to this debate, Elliott Sober argues that trait fitness is the central fitness concept, and that organismic fitness is of little value. In this paper, by contrast, we argue that it is organismic fitness that lies at the bases of both the (...)
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  13.  4
    Charles H. Pence, The Conflation of "Chance" in Evolution.
    Discussions of “chance” and related concepts are found throughout philosophical work on evolutionary theory. By drawing attention to three very commonly-recognized distinctions, I separate four independent concepts falling under the broad heading of “chance”: randomness, epistemic unpredictability, causal indeterminism, and probabilistic causal processes. Far from a merely semantic distinction, however, it is demonstrated that conflation of these obviously distinct notions has an important bearing on debates at the core of evolutionary theory, particularly the debate over the interpretation of fitness, natural (...)
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  14.  22
    Charles H. Pence, Hope Hollocher, Ryan Nichols, Grant Ramsey, Edwin Siu & Daniel John Sportiello (2011). Elliott Sober: Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards? Philosophical Essays on Darwin's Theory. [REVIEW] Philosophy of Science 78 (4):705-709.
  15.  2
    Charles H. Pence (2015). The Many Chances of Charles Darwin. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53:107-110.
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  16.  14
    Grant Ramsey, Hope Hollocher, Agustin Fuentes, Charles H. Pence & Edwin Siu (2010). Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection. [REVIEW] Quarterly Review of Biology 85 (4):499-500.
  17.  4
    Charles H. Pence (2013). Staffan Müller-Wille and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger.A Cultural History of Heredity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. Pp. Xiii+218. $45.00. [REVIEW] Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 3 (1):168-172.
  18. Grant Ramsey & Charles H. Pence (eds.) (forthcoming). Chance in Evolution.
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