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Elliott Sober [191]Elliott R. Sober [1]
  1. Elliott Sober, Empiricism.
    In S. Psillos and M. Curd (eds.), The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Science, forthcoming.
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  2. Elliott Sober, What is Wrong with Intelligent Design?
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  3. Elliott Sober, Coincidences and How to Think About Them.
    The naïve see causal connections everywhere. Consider the fact that Evelyn Marie Adams won the New Jersey lottery twice. The naïve find it irresistible to think that this cannot be a coincidence. Maybe the lottery was rigged or perhaps some uncanny higher power placed its hand upon her brow. Sophisticates respond with an indulgent smile and ask the naïve to view Adams’ double win within a larger perspective. Given all the lotteries there have been, it isn’t at all surprising that (...)
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  4. Elliott Sober, Contingency or Inevitability? What Would Happen If the Evolutionary Tape Were Replayed?
    Fifty years before Darwin defended his theory of evolution by natural selection in The Origin of Species, the French biologist Jean Baptiste Lamarck put forward an evolutionary theory of his own. According to Lamarck, life has an inherent tendency to develop from simple to complex through a preordained sequence of stages. The lineage to which human beings belong is the oldest, since we are the most complex of living things. Present-day worms belong to a lineage that is much younger, since (...)
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  5. Elliott Sober, Quine's Two Dogmas.
    Quine’s publication in 1951 of “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” was a watershed event in 20th century philosophy. In that essay, Quine sought to demolish the concepts of analyticity and a priority; he also sketched a positive proposal of his own -- epistemological holism. There can be little doubt that philosophy changed as a result of Quine’s work. The question I want to address here is whether it should have. My goal is not to argue for a return to the (...)
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  6. Elliott Sober, The Contest Between Parsimony and Likelihood.
    Philosophy Department, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA; E-mail: esober@stanford.edu; and Philosophy Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA; E-mail: ersober@wisc.edu..
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  7. Elliott Sober, The Two Faces of Fitness.
    The concept of fitness began its career in biology long before evolutionary theory was mathematized. Fitness was used to describe an organism’s vigor, or the degree to which organisms “fit” into their environments. An organism’s success in avoiding predators and in building a nest obviously contribute to its fitness and to the fitness of its offspring, but the peacock’s gaudy tail seemed to be in an entirely different line of work. Fitness, as a term in ordinary language (as in “physical (...)
     
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  8. Elliott Sober, Two Uses of Unification.
    Carl Hempel1 set the tone for subsequent philosophical work on scientific explanation by resolutely locating the problem he wanted to address outside of epistemology. “Hempel’s problem,” as I will call it, was not to say what counts as evidence that X is the explanation of Y. Rather, the question was what it means for X to explain Y. Hempel’s theory of explanation and its successors don’t tell you what to believe; instead, they tell you which of your beliefs (if any) (...)
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  9. Elliott Sober, What is the Problem of Simplicity?
    The problem of simplicity involves three questions: How is the simplicity of a hypothesis to be measured? How is the use of simplicity as a guide to hypothesis choice to be justified? And how is simplicity related to other desirable features of hypotheses -- that is, how is simplicity to be traded-off? The present paper explores these three questions, from a variety of viewpoints, including Bayesianism, likelihoodism, and the framework of predictive accuracy formulated by Akaike (1973). It may turn out (...)
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  10. Lawrence A. Shapiro & Elliott Sober (forthcoming). Epiphenomenalism - the Do's and the Don'ts. In G. Wolters & Peter K. Machamer (eds.), Studies in Causality: Historical and Contemporary. University of Pittsburgh Press.
    When philosophers defend epiphenomenalist doctrines, they often do so by way of a priori arguments. Here we suggest an empirical approach that is modeled on August Weismann.
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  11. Elliott Sober (forthcoming). Two Cornell Realisms: Moral and Scientific. Philosophical Studies:1-20.
    Richard Boyd and Nicholas Sturgeon develop distinctive naturalistic arguments for scientific realism and moral realism. Each defends a realist position by an inference to the best explanation. In this paper, I suggest that these arguments for realism should be reformulated, with the law of likelihood replacing inference to the best explanation. The resulting arguments for realism do not work.
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  12. Elliott Sober (forthcoming). What is Psychological Egoism? Behaviorism.
    Egoism and altruism need not be characterized as single factor theories of motivation, according to which there is a single kind of preference (self-regarding or other-regarding) that moves people to action. Rather, each asserts a claim of causal primacy--a claim as to which sort of preference is the more powerful influence on behavior. This paper shows that this idea of causal primacy can be clarified in a standard scientific way. This formulation explains why many observed behaviors fail to discriminate between (...)
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  13. Hayley Clatterbuck, Elliott Sober & Richard Lewontin (2013). Selection Never Dominates Drift (nor Vice Versa). Biology and Philosophy 28 (4):577-592.
    The probability that the fitter of two alleles will increase in frequency in a population goes up as the product of N (the effective population size) and s (the selection coefficient) increases. Discovering the distribution of values for this product across different alleles in different populations is a very important biological task. However, biologists often use the product Ns to define a different concept; they say that drift “dominates” selection or that drift is “stronger than” selection when Ns is much (...)
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  14. William Roche & Elliott Sober (2013). Explanatoriness is Evidentially Irrelevant, or Inference to the Best Explanation Meets Bayesian Confirmation Theory. Analysis 73 (4):659-668.
    In the world of philosophy of science, the dominant theory of confirmation is Bayesian. In the wider philosophical world, the idea of inference to the best explanation exerts a considerable influence. Here we place the two worlds in collision, using Bayesian confirmation theory to argue that explanatoriness is evidentially irrelevant.
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  15. Elliott Sober (2013). Trait Fitness is Not a Propensity, but Fitness Variation Is. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):336-341.
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  16. Martin Barrett, Hayley Clatterbuck, Michael Goldsby, Casey Helgeson, Brian McLoone, Trevor Pearce, Elliott Sober, Reuben Stern & Naftali Weinberger (2012). Puzzles for ZFEL, McShea and Brandon's Zero Force Evolutionary Law. Biology and Philosophy 27 (5):723-735.
    In their 2010 book, Biology’s First Law, D. McShea and R. Brandon present a principle that they call ‘‘ZFEL,’’ the zero force evolutionary law. ZFEL says (roughly) that when there are no evolutionary forces acting on a population, the population’s complexity (i.e., how diverse its member organisms are) will increase. Here we develop criticisms of ZFEL and describe a different law of evolution; it says that diversity and complexity do not change when there are no evolutionary causes.
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  17. Elliott Sober (2012). Anthropomorphism, Parsimony, and Common Ancestry. Mind and Language 27 (3):229-238.
    I consider three theses that are friendly to anthropomorphism. Each makes a claim about what can be inferred about the mental life of chimpanzees from the fact that humans and chimpanzees both have behavioral trait B and humans produce this behavior by having mental trait M. The first thesis asserts that this fact makes it probable that chimpanzees have M. The second says that this fact provides strong evidence that chimpanzees have M. The third claims that the fact is evidence (...)
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  18. Elliott Sober (2012). Coincidences and How to Reason About Them. In. In Henk W. de Regt (ed.), Epsa Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009. Springer. 355--374.
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  19. Elliott Sober (2012). Did God Have a Hand in the Origin of Species? The Philosophers' Magazine 56 (56):20-27.
    “The theory of evolution is about organisms evolving, populations evolving. What does this theory tell us about the quantum mechanics of micro-particles? The answer is ‘nothing’. There’s lots of stuff that happens in the world that the theory just isn’t telling us about. The existence of a God who occasionally intervenes in nature might be one of those things.”.
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  20. Elliott Sober (2012). Précis of Evidence and Evolution. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):661-665.
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  21. Gürol Irzık & Elliott Sober (2011). Introduction to the Synthese Special Issue on Hans Reichenbach, Istanbul, and Experience and Prediction. Synthese 181 (1):1-2.
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  22. Elliott Sober (2011). A Priori Causal Models of Natural Selection. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (4):571 - 589.
    To evaluate Hume's thesis that causal claims are always empirical, I consider three kinds of causal statement: ?e1 caused e2 ?, ?e1 promoted e2 ?, and ?e1 would promote e2 ?. Restricting my attention to cases in which ?e1 occurred? and ?e2 occurred? are both empirical, I argue that Hume was right about the first two, but wrong about the third. Standard causal models of natural selection that have this third form are a priori mathematical truths. Some are obvious, others (...)
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  23. Elliott Sober (2011). Précis of Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):661-665.
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  24. Elliott Sober (2011). Realism, Conventionalism, and Causal Decomposition in Units of Selection: Reflections on Samir Okasha's Evolution and the Levels of Selection. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):221-231.
    I discuss two subjects in Samir Okasha’s excellent book, Evolution and the Levels of Selection. In consonance with Okasha’s critique of the conventionalist view of the units of selection problem, I argue that conventionalists have not attended to what realists mean by group, individual, and genic selection. In connection with Okasha’s discussion of the Price equation and contextual analysis, I discuss whether the existence of these two quantitative frameworks is a challenge to realism.
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  25. Elliott Sober (2011). Reichenbach's Cubical Universe and the Problem of the External World. Synthese 181 (1):3 - 21.
    This paper is a sympathetic critique of the argument that Reichenbach develops in Chap. 2 of Experience and Prediction for the thesis that sense experience justifies belief in the existence of an external world. After discussing his attack on the positivist theory of meaning, I describe the probability ideas that Reichenbach presents. I argue that Reichenbach begins with an argument grounded in the Law of Likelihood but that he then endorses a different argument that involves prior probabilities. I try to (...)
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  26. Elliott Sober (2011). Responses to Fitelson, Sansom, and Sarkar. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):692-704.
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  27. Elliott Sober & Mike Steel (2011). Entropy Increase and Information Loss in Markov Models of Evolution. Biology and Philosophy 26 (2):223-250.
    Markov models of evolution describe changes in the probability distribution of the trait values a population might exhibit. In consequence, they also describe how entropy and conditional entropy values evolve, and how the mutual information that characterizes the relation between an earlier and a later moment in a lineage’s history depends on how much time separates them. These models therefore provide an interesting perspective on questions that usually are considered in the foundations of physics—when and why does entropy increase and (...)
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  28. Sarah Moss Kotzen, James Overton, Agustin Rayo, Susanna Rinard, Teddy Seidenfeld, Mike Smithson, Scott Sturgeon, Elliott Sober & Bas van Fraassen (2010). 1. Evidential Symmetry Let's Say That Propositions P and Q Are Evidentially Symmetrical (I'll Write This Asp & Q) for a Subject If His Evidence No More Supports One Than the Other. I Mean to Understand Evidence Very Broadly Here to Encompass Whatever We Have. In T. Szabo Gendler & J. Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology. Oxford University Press. 161.
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  29. Oron Shagrir, John D. Norton, Holger Andreas, Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen, Aris Spanos, Eckhart Arnold, Elliott Sober, Peter Gildenhuys & Adela Helena Roszkowski (2010). 1. Marr on Computational-Level Theories Marr on Computational-Level Theories (Pp. 477-500). Philosophy of Science 77 (4).
     
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  30. Elliott Sober (2010). At the Memorial Gathering for Ellery Eells. In Ellery Eells & James H. Fetzer (eds.), The Place of Probability in Science. Springer. 284.
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  31. Elliott Sober (2010). Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?: Philosophical Essays on Darwin's Theory. Prometheus Books.
  32. Elliott Sober (2010). Evolutionary Theory and the Reality of Macro Probabilities. In Ellery Eells & James H. Fetzer (eds.), The Place of Probability in Science. Springer. 133--60.
    Evolutionary theory is awash with probabilities. For example, natural selection is said to occur when there is variation in fitness, and fitness is standardly decomposed into two components, viability and fertility, each of which is understood probabilistically. With respect to viability, a fertilized egg is said to have a certain chance of surviving to reproductive age; with respect to fertility, an adult is said to have an expected number of offspring.1 There is more to evolutionary theory than the theory of (...)
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  33. Elliott Sober (2010). Evolution Without Naturalism. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 3.
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  34. Elliott Sober (2010). Natural Selection, Causality, and Laws: What Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini Got Wrong. Philosophy of Science 77 (4):594-607.
    In their book What Darwin Got Wrong , Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini construct an a priori philosophical argument and an empirical biological argument. The biological argument aims to show that natural selection is much less important in the evolutionary process than many biologists maintain. The a priori argument begins with the claim that there cannot be selection for one but not the other of two traits that are perfectly correlated in a population; it concludes that there cannot be an (...)
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  35. Joel D. Velasco & Elliott Sober (2010). Testing for Treeness: Lateral Gene Transfer, Phylogenetic Inference, and Model Selection. Biology and Philosophy 25 (4):675-687.
    A phylogeny that allows for lateral gene transfer (LGT) can be thought of as a strictly branching tree (all of whose branches are vertical) to which lateral branches have been added. Given that the goal of phylogenetics is to depict evolutionary history, we should look for the best supported phylogenetic network and not restrict ourselves to considering trees. However, the obvious extensions of popular tree-based methods such as maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood face a serious problem—if we judge networks by (...)
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  36. Elliott Sober (2009). Absence of Evidence and Evidence of Absence: Evidential Transitivity in Connection with Fossils, Fishing, Fine-Tuning, and Firing Squads. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 143 (1):63 - 90.
    “Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence” is a slogan that is popular among scientists and nonscientists alike. This article assesses its truth by using a probabilistic tool, the Law of Likelihood. Qualitative questions (“Is E evidence about H ?”) and quantitative questions (“How much evidence does E provide about H ?”) are both considered. The article discusses the example of fossil intermediates. If finding a fossil that is phenotypically intermediate between two extant species provides evidence that those species have (...)
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  37. Elliott Sober (2009). Darwin y la selección de grupo. Ludus Vitalis 17 (32):101-143.
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  38. Elliott Sober (2009). ¿ Escribió Darwin el Origen al revés. Teorema 28 (2):45-69.
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  39. Elliott Sober (2009). Parsimony Arguments in Science and Philosophy—A Test Case for Naturalism P. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 83 (2):117 - 155.
    Parsimony arguments are advanced in both science and philosophy. How are they related? This question is a test case for Naturalismp, which is the thesis that philosophical theories and scientific theories should be evaluated by the same criteria. In this paper, I describe the justifications that attach to two types of parsimony argument in science. In the first, parsimony is a surrogate for likelihood. In the second, parsimony is relevant to estimating how accurately a model will predict new data when (...)
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  40. Elliott Sober (2009). Parsimony and Models of Animal Minds. In Robert W. Lurz (ed.), The Philosophy of Animal Minds. Cambridge University Press. 237.
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  41. Elliott Sober (2008). A Philosopher Looks at the Units of Selection. Bioscience 58 (1):78-79.
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  42. Elliott Sober (2008). Fodor's Bubbe Meise Against Darwinism. Mind and Language 23 (1):42-49.
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  43. Elliott Sober (2008). Intelligent Design, Irreducible Complexity, and Minds—a Reply to John Beaudoin. Faith and Philosophy 25 (4):443-446.
    In my paper “Intelligent Design Theory and the Supernatural—the ‘God or Extra-Terrestrial’ Reply,” I argued that Intelligent Design (ID) Theory, when coupled with independently plausible further assumptions, leads to the conclusion that a supernatural intelligent designer exists. ID theory is therefore not neutral on the question of whether there are supernatural agents. In this respect, it differs from the Darwinian theory of evolution. John Beaudoin replies to my paper in his “Sober on Intelligent Design Theory and the Intelligent Designer,” arguing (...)
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  44. Elliott Sober (2007). Intelligent Design Theory and the Supernatural—the 'God or Extra-Terrestrials' Reply. Faith and Philosophy 24 (1):72-82.
    When proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) theory deny that their theory is religious, the minimalistic theory they have in mind (the mini-ID theory) is the claim that the irreducibly complex adaptations found in nature were made by one or more intelligent designers. The denial that this theory is religious rests on the fact that it does not specify the identity of the designer—a supernatural God or a team of extra-terrestrials could have done the work. The present paper attempts to show (...)
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  45. Elliott Sober (2007). Problems for Environmentalist! In Mohan Matthen & Christopher Stephens (eds.), Philosophy of Biology. Elsevier. 144--365.
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  46. Elliott Sober & E. Sober (2007). Sex Ratio Theory, Ancient and Modern: An Eighteenth-Century Debate About Intelligent Design and the Development of Models in Evolutionary Biology. In Jessica Riskin (ed.), Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life. University of Chicago Press. 131--62.
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  47. Elliott Sober (2006). A teoria moral de Kant. Crítica.
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  48. Elliott Sober (2005). Is Drift a Serious Alternative to Natural Selection as an Explanation of Complex Adaptive Traits? Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 80 (56):10-.
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  49. Elliott Sober (2005). Intelligent Design is Untestable : What About Natural Selection? In António Zilhão (ed.), Evolution, Rationality, and Cognition: A Cognitive Science for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge.
     
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  50. Elliott Sober (2005). Liberdade, determinismo e causalidade. Crítica.
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