Philosophical discussion of molecular and developmentalbiology began in the late 1960s with the use of genetics as a test case for models of theory reduction. With this exception, the theory of natural selection remained the main focus of philosophy of biology until the late 1970s. It was controversies in evolutionary theory over punctuated equilibrium and adaptationism that first led philosophers to examine the concept of developmental constraint. Developmentalbiology also gained in prominence (...) in the 1980s as part of a broader interest in the new sciences of self-organization and complexity. The current literature in the philosophy of molecular and developmentalbiology has grown out of these earlier discussions under the influence of twenty years of rapid and exciting growth of empirical knowledge. Philosophers have examined the concepts of genetic information and genetic program, competing definitions of the gene itself and competing accounts of the role of the gene as a developmental cause. The debate over the relationship between development and evolution has been enriched by theories and results from the new field of 'evolutionary developmentalbiology'. Future developments seem likely to include an exchange of ideas with the philosophy of psychology, where debates over the concept of innateness have created an interest in genetics and development. (shrink)
What are the agents of life? Central to our conception of the biological world is the idea that it contains various kinds of individuals, including genes, organisms, and species. How we conceive of these agents of life is central to our understanding of the relationship between life and mind, the place of hierarchical thinking in the biological sciences, and pluralistic views of biological agency. Genes and the Agents of Life rethinks the place of the individual in the biological sciences, drawing (...) parallels with the cognitive and social sciences. Genes, organisms, and species are all agents of life, but how are each of these conceptualized within genetics, developmentalbiology, evolutionary biology, and systematics? The book includes highly accessible discussions of genetic encoding, species and natural kinds, and pluralism above the levels of selection, drawing on work from across the biological sciences. A companion to Boundaries of the Mind, (Cambridge, 2004) where the focus is on the cognitive sciences, this volume will appeal to professionals and students in philosophy, biology, and the history of science. Robert A. Wilson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta. He is the author of Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds (Cambridge, 1995). (shrink)
Alexander Rosenberg recently claimed (1997) that developmentalbiology is currently being reduced to molecular biology. cite several concrete biological examples that are intended to impugn Rosenberg's claim. I first argue that although Laubichler and Wagner's examples would refute a very strong reductionism, a more moderate reductionism would escape their attacks. Next, taking my cue from the antireductionist's perennial stress on the importance of spatial organization, I describe one form an empirical finding that refutes this moderate reductionism would (...) take. Finally, I point out an actual example, anterior-posterior axis determination in the chick, that challenges the reductionist's belief that all developmental regularities can be explained by molecular biology. In short, I argue that Rosenberg's position can be saved from Laubichler and Wagner's criticisms and putative counter-examples, but it would not survive a different kind of counter-example. (shrink)
One foundational question in contemporarybiology is how to `rejoin evolution anddevelopment. The emerging research program(evolutionary developmentalbiology or`evo-devo) requires a meshing of disciplines,concepts, and explanations that have beendeveloped largely in independence over the pastcentury. In the attempt to comprehend thepresent separation between evolution anddevelopment much attention has been paid to thesplit between genetics and embryology in theearly part of the 20th century with itscodification in the exclusion of embryologyfrom the Modern Synthesis. This encourages acharacterization of evolutionary developmentalbiology as (...) the marriage of evolutionary theoryand embryology via developmental genetics. Butthere remains a largely untold story about thesignificance of morphology and comparativeanatomy (also minimized in the ModernSynthesis). Functional and evolutionarymorphology are critical for understanding thedevelopment of a concept central toevolutionary developmentalbiology,evolutionary innovation. Highlighting thediscipline of morphology and the concepts ofinnovation and novelty provides an alternativeway of conceptualizing the `evo and the `devoto be synthesized. (shrink)
Comprised of essays by top scholars in the field, this volume offers concise overviews of philosophical issues raised by biology. Brings together a team of eminent scholars to explore the philosophical issues raised by biology Addresses traditional and emerging topics, spanning molecular biology and genetics, evolution, developmentalbiology, immunology, ecology, mind and behaviour, neuroscience, and experimentation Begins with a thorough introduction to the field Goes beyond previous treatments that focused only on evolution to give equal (...) attention to other areas, such as molecular and developmentalbiology Represents both an authoritative guide to philosophy of biology, and an accessible reference work for anyone seeking to learn about this rapidly-changing field. (shrink)
This paper argues in defense of theanti-reductionist consensus in the philosophy ofbiology. More specifically, it takes issues with AlexRosenberg's recent challenge of this position. Weargue that the results of modern developmentalgenetics rather than eliminating the need forfunctional kinds in explanations of developmentactually reinforce their importance.
Yellowstone National Park poses critical issues in biology and philosophy. Among these are (1) how to value nature, especially at the ecosystem level, and whether to let nature take its course or employ hands-on scientific management; (2) the meaning of natural as this operates in park policy; (3) establishing biological claims on th scale of regional systems; (4) the interplay of natural and cultural history, involving both native and European Americans; (5) and sociopolitical forces as determinants in biological (...) discovery. Alston Chase's strident Playing God in Yellowstone is critized and used as a test of David Hull's naturalistic philosophy of biology. Biology and philosophy in Yellowstone ought to combine for an appropriate environmental ethic. (shrink)
I analyze the importance of parts in the style of biological theorizing that I call compositional biology. I do this by investigating various aspects, including partitioning frames and explanatory accounts, of the theoretical perspectives that fall under and are guided by compositional biology. I ground this general examination in a comparative analysis of three different disciplines with their associated compositional theoretical perspectives: comparative morphology, functional morphology, and developmentalbiology. I glean data for this analysis from canonical (...) textbooks and defend the use of such texts for the philosophy of science. I end with a discussion of the importance of recognizing formal and compositional biology as two genuinely different ways of doing biology – the differences arising more from their distinct methodologies than from scientific discipline included or natural domain studied. Ultimately, developing a translation manual between the two styles would be desirable as they currently are, at times, in conflict. (shrink)
This is a wide ranging and deeply learned examination of evolutionary developmentalbiology, and the foundations of life from the perspective of information theory. Hermeneutics was a method developed in the humanities to achieve understanding, in a given context, of texts, history, and artwork. In Readers of the Book of Life, the author shows that living beings are also hermeneutical interpreters of genetics texts saved in DNA; an interpretation based on the past experience of the cell (cell lineage, (...) species), confronted with and incorporating present environmental clues. This approach stresses the history, not only of the digital record saved in the DNA, but also of the flesh - the cellular organization which has a direct time-continuity with the very origins of life. This book is aimed at reconciling two opposite approaches to life. The first strictly sticking to a belief that all phenomena observed in the realm of the living can be explained from laws of physics. The opposite stressing the importance of features characteristic for a given level of description. To bring both views into a common understanding, the first part gives a comparison of the two problem solving strategies. The second part surveys the development of 20th century biology, bringing to light branches that never became part of the research mainstream. The third section of the book reviews a large body of recent evidence that can be interpreted in favor of the hermeneutic arguments. (shrink)
In this paper I consider Kenneth Schaffner''s(1998) rendition of ''''developmentalism'''' from the point of viewof bacteriophage biology. I argue that the fact that a viablephage can be produced from purified DNA and host cellularcomponents lends some support to the anti-developmentalist, ifthey first show that one can draw a principled distinctionbetween genetic and environmental effects. The existence ofhost-controlled phage host range restriction supports thedevelopmentalist''s insistence on the parity of DNA andenvironment. However, in the case of bacteriophage, thedevelopmentalist stands on less (...) firm ground than when organismswith nervous systems, such as Schaffner''s C. elegans, areconsidered. (shrink)
In recent years, the concept of evolvability has been gaining in prominence both within evolutionary developmentalbiology (evo-devo) and the broader field of evolutionary biology. Despite this, there remains considerable disagreement about what evolvability is. This article offers a solution to this problem. I argue that, in focusing too closely on the role played by evolvability as an explanandum in evo-devo, existing philosophical attempts to clarify the evolvability concept have been overly narrow. Within evolutionary biology more (...) broadly, evolvability offers a robust explanation for the evolutionary trajectories of populations. Evolvability is an abstract, robust, dispositional property of populations, which captures the joint causal influence of their internal features on the outcomes of evolution (as opposed to the causal influence of selection, which is often characterized as external). When considering the nature of the physical basis of this disposition, it becomes clear that the many existing definitions of evolvability at play within evo-devo should be understood as capturing only aspects of a much broader phenomenon. 1 Introduction2 The Problem of Evolvability3 The Theoretical Role of Evolvability in Evolutionary Biology3.1 The explanatory targets of evolutionary biology3.2 Selection-based explanations3.3 Lineage explanations3.4 Evolvability-based explanations3.5 What properties must evolvability have?4 What Evolvability Really Is4.1 Making sense of ft4.2 Making sense of x and b5 What of the Limbs? The Power of E6 Conclusion. (shrink)
John Dupré explores recent revolutionary developments in biology and considers their relevance for our understanding of human nature and human society. Epigenetics and related areas of molecular biology have eroded the exceptional status of the gene and presented the genome as fully interactive with the rest of the cell. Developmental systems theory provides a space for a vision of evolution that takes full account of the fundamental importance of developmental processes. Dupré shows the importance of microbiology (...) for a proper understanding of the living world, and reveals how it subverts such basic biological assumptions as the organisation of biological kinds on a branching tree of life, and the simple traditional conception of the biological organism. -/- These topics are considered in the context of a view of science as realistically grounded in the natural order, but at the same time as pluralistic and inextricably integrated within a social and normative context. The volume includes a section that recapitulates and expands some of the author's general views on science; a section addressing a range of topics in biology, including the significance of genomics, the nature of the organism and the current status of evolutionary theory; and a section exploring some implications of contemporary biology for humans, for example on the reality or unreality of human races, and the plasticity of human nature. (shrink)
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology is an exciting collection of new essays written especially to give the reader an introduction to one of the most vibrant areas of scholarship today, and at the same time to move the subject forward dramatically. Written in a clear and rigorous style it will give the more experienced scholar much to think about and will also be of great value to the new student of the subject. The handbook covers the (...) history of the topic, then moves into important analyses of contemporary evolutionary thinking, and continues with discussions of genetics and the moral and epistemological foundations of our understanding of heredity. The book goes on to cover ecology, behavior and morality, and does not neglect religion or feminist issues. Finally, it takes up matters to do with language and metaphor. The authors range from the senior and experienced to new and exciting young scholars. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology is a collection that will be of interest to philosophers of science, to philosophers generally, as well as biologists of all kinds. There is no better way to learn about this dynamic field than through the essays in this volume. (shrink)
The philosophy of biology is one of the most exciting new areas in the field of philosophy and one that is attracting much attention from working scientists. This Companion, edited by two of the founders of the field, includes newly commissioned essays by senior scholars and up-and-coming younger scholars who collectively examine the main areas of the subject - the nature of evolutionary theory, classification, teleology and function, ecology, and the problematic relationship between biology and religion, (...) among other topics. Up-to-date and comprehensive in its coverage, this unique volume will be of interest not only to professional philosophers but also to students in the humanities and researchers in the life sciences and related areas of inquiry. (shrink)
Drawing on work of the past decade, this volume brings together articles from the philosophy, history, and sociology of science, and many other branches of the biological sciences. The volume delves into the latest theoretical controversies as well as burning questions of contemporary social importance. The issues considered include the nature of evolutionary theory, biology and ethics, the challenge from religion, and the social implications of biology today (in particular the Human Genome Project).
In addition to being one of the world's most influential philosophers, Aristotle can also be credited with the creation of both the science of biology and the philosophy of biology. He was the first thinker to treat the investigations of the living world as a distinct inquiry with its own special concepts and principles. This book focuses on a seminal event in the history of biology - Aristotle's delineation of a special branch of theoretical knowledge devoted (...) to the systematic investigation of animals. Aristotle approached the creation of zoology with the tools of subtle and systematic philosophies of nature and of science that were then carefully tailored to the investigation of animals. The papers collected in this volume, written by a pre-eminent figure in the field of Aristotle's philosophy and biology, examine Aristotle's approach to biological inquiry and explanation, his concepts of matter, form and kind, and his teleology. (shrink)
This book examines from a multidisciplinary viewpoint the question of what we mean - what we should mean - by setting sustainability as a goal for environmental management. The author, trained as a philosopher of science and language, explores ways to break down the disciplinary barriers to communication and deliberation about environment policy, and to integrate science and evaluations into a more comprehensive environmental policy. Choosing sustainability as the keystone concept of environmental policy, the author explores what we can learn (...) about sustainable living from the philosophy of pragmatism, from ecology, from economics, from planning, from conservation biology and from related disciplines. The idea of adaptive, or experimental, management provides the context, while insights from various disciplines are integrated into a comprehensive philosophy of environmental management. The book will appeal to students and professionals in the fields of environmental policy and ethics, conservation biology, and philosophy of science. (shrink)
Perhaps because of it implications for our understanding of human nature, recent philosophy of biology has seen what might be the most dramatic work in the philosophies of the ”special” sciences. This drama has centered on evolutionary theory, and in the second edition of this textbook, Elliott Sober introduces the reader to the most important issues of these developments. With a rare combination of technical sophistication and clarity of expression, Sober engages both the higher level of theory and (...) the direct implications for such controversial issues as creationism, teleology, nature versus nurture, and sociobiology. Above all, the reader will gain from this book a firm grasp of the structure of evolutionary theory, the evidence for it, and the scope of its explanatory significance. (shrink)
The writings of Joseph Henry Woodger (1894–1981) are often taken to exemplify everything that was wrongheaded, misguided, and just plain wrong with early twentieth-century philosophy of biology. Over the years, commentators have said of Woodger: (a) that he was a fervent logical empiricist who tried to impose the explanatory gold standards of physics onto biology, (b) that his philosophical work was completely disconnected from biological science, (c) that he possessed no scientific or philosophical credentials, (...) and (d) that his work was disparaged – if not altogether ignored – by the biologists and philosophers of his era. In this paper, we provide the first systematic examination of Woodger’s oeuvre, and use it to demonstrate that the four preceding claims are false. We argue that Woodger’s ideas have exerted an important influence on biology and philosophy, and submit that the current consensus on his legacy stems from a highly selective reading of his works. By rehabilitating Woodger, we hope to show that there is no good reason to continue to disregard the numerous contributions to the philosophy of biology produced in the decades prior to the professionalization of the discipline. (shrink)
This is the first of two articles in which I reflect on “generalized Darwinism” as currently discussed in evolutionary economics. I approach evolutionary economics by the roundabouts of evolutionary epistemology and the philosophy of biology, and contrast evolutionary economists’ cautious generalizations of Darwinism with “imperialistic” proposals to unify the behavioral sciences. I then discuss the continued resistance to biological ideas in the social sciences, focusing on the issues of naturalism and teleology. In the companion article (Callebaut, Biol Theory (...) 6. doi:10.1007/s13752-013-0087-1, 2011, this issue) I assess generalized Darwinism, concentrating on the roles of theory and model building, generative replication, and the relation between selection and self-organization; and I point to advances in biology that promise to be more fruitful as sources of inspiration for evolutionary economics than the project to generalize Darwinism in its current, “hardened Modern Synthesis” form. (shrink)
The theory of concepts advanced in the dissertation aims at accounting for a) how a concept makes successful practice possible, and b) how a scientific concept can be subject to rational change in the course of history. Traditional accounts in the philosophy of science have usually studied concepts in terms only of their reference; their concern is to establish a stability of reference in order to address the incommensurability problem. My discussion, in contrast, suggests that each scientific concept consists (...) of three components of content: 1) reference, 2) inferential role, and 3) the epistemic goal pursued with the concept's use. I argue that in the course of history a concept can change in any of these three components, and that change in one component—including change of reference—can be accounted for as being rational relative to other components, in particular a concept's epistemic goal. This semantic framework is applied to two cases from the history of biology: the homology concept as used in 19th and 20th century biology, and the gene concept as used in different parts of the 20th century. The homology case study argues that the advent of Darwinian evolutionary theory, despite introducing a new definition of homology, did not bring about a new homology concept (distinct from the pre-Darwinian concept) in the 19th century. Nowadays, however, distinct homology concepts are used in systematics/evolutionary biology, in evolutionary developmentalbiology, and in molecular biology. The emergence of these different homology concepts is explained as occurring in a rational fashion. The gene case study argues that conceptual progress occurred with the transition from the classical to the molecular gene concept, despite a change in reference. In the last two decades, change occurred internal to the molecular gene concept, so that nowadays this concept's usage and reference varies from context to context. I argue that this situation emerged rationally and that the current variation in usage and reference is conducive to biological practice. The dissertation uses ideas and methodological tools from the philosophy of mind and language, the philosophy of science, the history of science, and the psychology of concepts. (shrink)
The genetic code appeared on Earth with the first cells. The codes of cultural evolution arrived almost four billion years later. These are the only codes that are recognized by modern biology. In this book, however, Marcello Barbieri explains that there are many more organic codes in nature, and their appearance not only took place throughout the history of life but marked the major steps of that history. A code establishes a correspondence between two independent 'worlds', and the codemaker (...) is a third party between those 'worlds'. Therefore the cell can be thought of as a trinity of genotype, phenotype and ribotype. The ancestral ribotypes were the agents which gave rise to the first cells. The book goes on to explain how organic codes and organic memories can be used to shed new light on the problems encountered in cell signalling, epigenesis, embryonic development, and the evolution of language. (shrink)
Biologists study life in its various physical forms, while philosophers of biology seek answers to questions about the nature, purpose, and impact of this research. What permits us to distinguish between living and nonliving things even though both are made of the same minerals? Is the complex structure of organisms proof that a creative force is working its will in the physical universe, or are existing life-forms the random result of an evolutionary process working itself out over eons of (...) time? What moral and social questions arise regarding modern advances in biotechnology? What is more relevant to human nature: genetics or sociocultural influences? Is Darwinism the death-knell of God? These are just some of the vital questions addressed by a distinguished group of philosophers and scientists which includes: Aristotle, Francisco J. Ayala, , Michael Benton, Tom Bethell, Joe Cain, David Castle, Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, Michael Denton, A.G.N. Flew, Stephen Jay Gould, J.B.S. Haldane, John F. Haught, D. W. E. Hone, James W. Kirchner, James Lovelock, Jane Maienschein, Ernst Mayr, Gregory M. Mikkelson, Leslie Orgal, William Paley, the Prince of Wales, Christopher Pynes, Richard A. Richards, Mark Ridley, Holmes Rolston III, Michael Ruse, Lee Silver, Elliott Sober, Kim Sterelny, Derek Turner, and Edward O. Wilson. This second edition contains material on design without selection, testing macroevolutionary claims, recent biotechnological issues, key ecological concerns, the Gaia hypothesis, genetically modified foods, and the so-called intelligent design movement. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmentalbiology (Evo-Devo) is a new and rapidly developing field of biology which focuses on questions in the intersection of evolution and development and has been seen by many as a potential synthesis of these two fields. This synthesis is the topic of the books reviewed here. Integrating Evolution and Development (edited by Roger Sansom and Robert Brandon), is a collection of papers on conceptual issues in Evo-Devo, while From Embryology to Evo-Devo (edited by Manfred Laubichler (...) and Jane Maienschein) is a history of the problem of the relations between ontogeny and phylogeny. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmentalbiology (evo-devo) offers both an account of developmental processes and also new integrative frameworks for analyzing interactions between development and evolution. Biologists and philosophers are keen on evo-devo in part because it appears to offer a comfort zone between, on the one hand, what some take to be the relative inability of mainstream evolutionary biology to integrate a developmental perspective; and, on the other hand, what some take to be more intractable syntheses of (...) development and evolution. In this article, I outline core concerns of evo-devo, distinguish theoretical and practical variants, and counter Sterelny's recent argument that evo-devo's attention to development, while important, offers no significant challenge to evolutionary theory as we know it. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: -- 1. Quantum Mechanics as a General Framework -- 2. Classical and Quantum Information and Entropy -- 3. The Brain: An Outlook -- 4. Vision -- 5. Dealing with Target's Motion and Our Own Movement -- 6. Complexity: A Necessary Condition -- 7. General Features of Life -- 8. The Organism as a Semiotic and Cybernetic System -- 9. Phylogeny -- 10. Ontogeny -- 11. Epigeny -- 12. Representational Semiotics -- 13. The Brain as an Information-Control (...) System -- 14. Decisional, Emotional and Cognitive Systems -- 15. Behavior -- 16. Learning -- 17. Memory -- 18. The Basic Symbolic Systems -- 19. What Symbols Are -- 20. Intentionality and Conceptualization -- 21. Consciousness -- 22. Development and Culture -- 23. Language -- 24. Mind and Brain (Body) -- 25. Final Philosophical Remarks. (shrink)
Mayr has made both conceptual and professional contributions to the establishment of the history and philosophy of biology. His conceptual contributions include, among many others, the notion of population thinking. He has also played an important role in the establishment of history and philosophy of biology as viable professional disciplines.
Despite the amount of work that has been produced on the subject over the years, the ‘transformation of cladistics’ is still a misunderstood episode in the history of comparative biology. Here, I analyze two outstanding, highly contrasting historiographic accounts on the matter, under the perspective of an influential dichotomy in the philosophy of science: the opposition between Scientific Realism and Empiricism. Placing special emphasis on the notion of ‘causal grounding’ of morphological characters ( sensu Olivier Rieppel) in modern (...)developmentalbiology’s (mechanistic) theories, I arrive at the conclusion that a ‘new transformation of cladistics’ is philosophically plausible. This ‘reformed’ understanding of ‘pattern cladistics’ entails retaining the interpretation of cladograms as ‘schemes of synapomorphies’, but in association to construing cladogram nodes as ‘developmental-genetic taxic homologies’, instead of ‘standard Darwinian ancestors’. The reinterpretation of pattern cladistics presented here additionally proposes to take Bas Van Fraassen’s ‘constructive empiricism’ as a philosophical stance that could properly support such analysis of developmental-genetic data for systematic purposes. The latter suggestion is justified through a reappraisal of previous ideas developed by prominent pattern cladists (mainly, Colin Patterson), which concerned a scientifically efficient ‘observable/non-observable distinction’ linked to the conceptual pair ‘ontogeny and phylogeny’. Finally, I argue that a robust articulation of Antirealist alternatives in systematics may provide a rational basis for its disciplinary separation from evolutionary biology, as well as for a critical reconsideration of the proper role of certain Scientific Realist positions, currently popular in comparative biology. (shrink)
EM Music Education /EM is a collection of thematically organized essays that present an historical background of the picture of education first in Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages, then Early-Modern Europe. The bulk of the book focuses on American education up to the present. This third edition includes readings by Orff, Kodály, Sinichi Suzuki, William Channing Woodbridge, Allan Britton, and Charles Leonhard. In addition, essays include timely topics on feminism, diversity, cognitive psych, testing (the Praxis exam) and the No (...) Child Left Behind Act. (shrink)
Developmental systems theory (DST) is a general theoretical perspective on development, heredity and evolution. It is intended to facilitate the study of interactions between the many factors that influence development without reviving `dichotomous' debates over nature or nurture, gene or environment, biology or culture. Several recent papers have addressed the relationship between DST and the thriving new discipline of evolutionary developmentalbiology (EDB). The contributions to this literature by evolutionary developmental biologists contain three important misunderstandings (...) of DST. (shrink)
Exploring central philosophical issues concerning scientific research in modern experimental biology, this book clarifies the strategies, concepts, reasoning, approaches, tools, models and experimental systems deployed by researchers. It also integrates recent developments in historical scholarship, in particular, the New Experimentalism, making this work of interest to philosophers and historians of science as well as to biological researchers.
This volume provides a broad overview of issues in the philosophy of behavioral biology, covering four main themes: genetic, developmental, evolutionary, and neurobiological explanations of behavior. It is both interdisciplinary and empirically informed in its approach, addressing philosophical issues that arise from recent scientific findings in biological research on human and non-human animal behavior. Accordingly, it includes papers by professional philosophers and philosophers of science, as well as practicing scientists. Much of the work in this volume builds (...) on presentations given at the international conference, “Biological Explanations of Behavior: Philosophical Perspectives”, held in 2008 at the Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany. The volume is intended to be of interest to a broad range of audiences, which includes philosophers (e.g., philosophers of mind, philosophers of biology, and metaethicists), as well as practicing scientists, such as biologists or psychologists whose interests relate to biological explanations of behavior. (shrink)
Jerry L. R. Chandler, a scientist from the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies at George Mason University in USA and president of The Washington Evolutionary Systems Society (WESS), recently posted a query to the members of WESS and related persons in order to assemble a set of the fundamental questions that are guiding research and debate on emerging and evolving complex systems. "We seek to focus our inquiry on such questions that are fundamental to physical, chemical, biological, social and cultural (...) emergence," wrote Chandler. During its history of nearly two decades, the WESS members have debated a wide range of concepts and ideas related to evolutionary systems (see the volumes of Van de Vijver et al. 1998; Chandler & Van de Vijver 2000). As noted by Chandler, concomitantly a gradual shift in the public perceptions of science and scientific philosophies has occurred. Chandler asked how these perceptions will evolve in the next three to fifty years, and asked the members to make a short list of the fundamental open questions in one's field of inquiry. With the reservation that my comment was not so much an answer as an indication of my current interest, I answered Chandler that one big challenge I could think of is about how to integrate research into the origin and evolution of complex systems (physics, biophysics, molecular and evolutionary biology) with research into the semiotic nature and performance of such complex systems (biosemiotics, developmental psychology, consciousness studies, philosophy of mind, etc.). (shrink)
The essays in this collection examine developments in three fundamental biological disciplines--embryology, evolutionary biology, and genetics--in conflict with each other for much of the twentieth century. They consider key methodological problems and the difficulty of overcoming them. Richard Burian interweaves historical appreciation of the settings within which scientists work, substantial knowledge of the biological problems at stake and the methodological and philosophical issues faced in integrating biological knowledge drawn from disparate sources.
Developmentalbiology is expanding into several new areas. One new area of study concerns the production of adult-onset phenotypes by exposure of the fetus or neonate to environmental agents. These agents include maternal nutrients, developmental modulators (endocrine disruptors), and maternal care. In all three cases, a major mechanism for the generation of the altered phenotype is chromatin modification. Nutrient conditions, developmental modulators, and even maternal care appear to alter DNA methylation and other associated changes in chromatin (...) that regulate gene expression. This brings a new, under-appreciated, dimension of gene regulation into developmentalbiology, and it also demonstrates the poverty of the nature versus nurture framework for discussing phenotype production. Moreover, while such epigenetic mechanisms undermine genetic determinism, they add a layer of probabilistic biological causality for the maintenance of social inequalities. (shrink)
This paper reviews Rosenberg’s and McShea’s textbook in philosophy of biology, entitled Philosophy of Biology. A Contemporary Introduction. I insist on the excellent quality of this textbook, then I turn to more critical comments, which deal mainly with what philosophy of biology is, and what it should be.
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology covers a broad range of topics in this field. It is not just a textbook focusing on evolutionary theory but encompasses ethics, social science and behaviour too. This essay outlines the scope of the work, discusses some points on methodology in the philosophy of biology, and then moves on to a more detailed analysis of cultural evolution and the applicability of a philosophy of biology toolkit to the (...) social sciences. It is noted that concepts like the species concept may generalise to other domains whilst failing to account for the nature of all species. Finally, the author notes the omission of any discussion of information in biology. (shrink)