Recent philosophical discussions have failed to clarify the roles of the concept fitness in evolutionary theory. Neither the propensity interpretation of fitness nor the construal of fitness as a primitive theoretical term succeed in explicating the empirical content and explanatory power of the theory of natural selection. By appealing to the structure of simple mathematical models of natural selection, we separate out different contrasts which have tended to confuse discussions of fitness: the distinction between what fitness is defined as (...) versus what fitness is a function of, the contrast between adaptedness as an overall property of organisms and specific adaptive capacities, the distinction between actual and potential reproductive success, the role of chance versus systematic causal relations, fitness as applied to organisms as opposed to fitness applied to genotype classes, heritable adaptive capacities of genotypes as opposed to relations between genotypes and the environment. We show how failure to distinguish and properly interrelate these different aspects of “fitness” adds confusion to a number of already complex issues concerning evolutionary theory. On the basis of our discussion of these different aspects of “fitness”, we propose a terminology which makes the necessary distinctions. A central result of our analysis is that the concept of fitness as the overall adaptedness of organisms does not enter into the causal structure of evolutionaryexplanation, at least to the extent that this structure is represented in the mathematical models of natural selection. (shrink)
The so-called evolutionary approach is getting more and more popular in various branches of philosophy. Evolutionary explanations are often used in virtually every classical philosophical discipline. The structure of evolutionary explanations is examined and it is pointed out that only one sub-category of evolutionary explanations, namely, nonreductive, non-stipulated adaptation-explanation can be of any philosophical significance. I finish by examining which of the proposed philosophical arguments use this kind of evolutionaryexplanation. The answer will (...) be disappointing for those who would like to think of philosophy as a branch of evolutionary biology. (shrink)
Psychopaths are brutal individuals, having no empathetic concern for others. Initially, the existence of psychopaths seems to be a mystery from an evolutionary point of view. On close examination, however, it can be accommodated by evolutionary theory. Brutal individuals excelled meek individuals in the desperate circumstances where they had to fight their competitors over natural resources for survival and reproduction. This evolutionaryexplanation of psychopaths receives support from Pinker's observation of the history of brutality. We have (...) good reasons for predicting that psychopaths are likely to die out in the future. (shrink)
Abstract: In Chapter 4 of his "Self-Deception Unmasked" (SDU), Al Mele considers several (attempted) empirical demonstrations of self-deception. These empirical demonstrations work under the conception of what Mele refers to as the 'dual-belief requirement', in which an agent simultaneously holds a belief p and a belief ~p. Toward the end of this chapter, Mele considers the argument of one biologist and anthropologist, Robert Trivers, who describes what he takes to be an evolutionaryexplanation for coming to form false (...) beliefs. Mele argues briefly that Trivers's account is no more explanatory than a similar one that does not include the dual-belief requirement. I present a case describing Trivers' analysis, show how Mele might reply to it. After briefly explaining Mele's sufficient conditions for entering self-deception from Chapter 3 of SDU, I'll consider what it means to hold the dual-belief. I'll then consider what I take to be a class of cases of self-deception which rely on genetic determinism, which I take to satisfy the dual-belief condition. (shrink)
Excerpt from: Hull, D. L. (1998). Review: Anthony O'Hear, Beyond Evolution:\nHuman Nature and the Limits of EvolutionaryExplanation. Oxford:\nClarendon Press. 1997. cloth 19.99. British Journal for the Philosophy\nof Science, 49, 511-14.
This article seeks to explain the transformation of culture using the mechanism of evolutionary theory. Social biologists have been dealing with this issue for many years now. However, these scholars have not sufficiently allowed for the importance of factors independent of genes. They have primarily thought of culture as nothing more than the expansion of genes, as an increase in the rate of genetic adaptation. Namely, they have focused less on culture itself and more on its natural origins. Even (...) while accepting the dual inheritance model that the structure of biological genes and cultural transmission is different, this article seeksto take a step further. My aim is to show how culture that takes shape on the group level is explainable on the cultural genetic level. Seen from the point of view of culture genetics, the transformation of culture signifies the transformation in the frequency of a cultural gene. At this point, we are thus faced with the following questions: 1) Is it possible to concretize the units of culture genes? 2) What is the fundamental characteristic of a culture gene? and 3) What relationship is there between biological genes and cultural genes? This article will prove that it is indeed possible to concretize the units of culture genes, that the most substantialfundamental characteristic of a cultural gene is, as would be expected, to clone itself, and that cultural genes and biological genes exist within multiple relationships of cooperation, conflict, and reciprocity. Finally, this article will further concretize the dual inheritance model with a careful examination of its two patterns of evolutionaryexplanation, the reductionist on the one hand, and the non-reductionist on the other. This examination will conclude that, in terms of culture, the non-reductionist model is the most suitable. (shrink)
. Evolutionary psychology and behavioural genomics are both approaches to explain human behaviour from a genetic point of view. Nonetheless, thus far the development of these disciplines is anything but interdependent. This paper examines the question whether evolutionary psychology can contribute to behavioural genomics. Firstly, a possible inconsistency between the two approaches is reviewed, viz. that evolutionary psychology focuses on the universal human nature and disregards the genetic variation studied by behavioural genomics. Secondly, we will discuss the (...) structure of biological explanations. Some philosophers rightly acknowledge that explanations do not involve laws which are exceptionless and universal. Instead, generalisations that are invariant suffice for successful explanation as long as two other stipulations are recognised: the domain within which the generalisation has no exceptions as well as the distribution of the mechanism described by the generalisation should both be specified. It is argued that evolutionary psychology can contribute to behavioural genomic explanations by accounting for these two specifications. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychology is a science in the making, working toward the goal of showing how psychological adaptation underlies much human behavior. The knee-jerk reaction that sociobiology is unscientific because it tells “just-so stories” has become a common charge against evolutionary psychology as well. My main positive thesis is that inference to the best explanation is a proper method for evolutionary analyses, and it supplies a new perspective on the issues raised in Schlinger's (1996) just-so story critique. (...) My main negative thesis is that, like many nonevolutionist critics, Schlinger's objections arise from misunderstandings of the evolutionary approach.Evolutionary psychology has progressed beyond telling just-so stories. It has found a host of ingenious special techniques to test hypotheses about the adaptive significance and proximate mechanisms of behavior. Naturalistic data using the comparative method combined with controlled tests using statistical analyses of data provide good evidence for a variety of hypotheses about behavioral control mechanisms — whether in nonhumans or in humans. For instance, the work of Gangestad and Thornhill on evolved mate preferences and fluctuating asymmetry of body type (FA) is a model of success. As the quantity and quality of evidence increase, we are entitled not just to regard such evolutionary hypotheses as preferable, but also as true. Such studies combine to show that the best explanation of “the psychic unity of humankind” — common patterns across societies, history, and cultures exposed by evolutionists — is the gendered, adapted, evolved species-typical design of the mind. (shrink)
It is commonly supposed that evolutionary explanations of cognitive phenomena involve the assumption that the capacities to be explained are both innate and modular. This is understandable: independent selection of a trait requires that it be both heritable and largely decoupled from other `nearby' traits. Cognitive capacities realized as innate modules would certainly satisfy these contraints. A viable evolutionary cognitive psychology, however, requires neither extreme nativism nor modularity, though it is consistent with both. In this paper, we seek (...) to show that rather weak assumptions about innateness and modularity are consistent with evolutionary explanations of cognitive capacities. Evolutionary pressures can affect the degree to which the development of a capacity is canalized by biasing acquisition/ learning in ways that favor development of concepts and capacities that proved adaptive to an organism's ancestors. q 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) is considered a ‘mechanistic science,’ in that it causally explains morphological evolution in terms of changes in developmental mechanisms. Evo-devo is also an interdisciplinary and integrative approach, as its explanations use contributions from many fields and pertain to different levels of organismal organization. Philosophical accounts of mechanistic explanation are currently highly prominent, and have been particularly able to capture the integrative nature of multifield and multilevel explanations. However, I argue that evo-devo demonstrates the need (...) for a broadened philosophical conception of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. Mechanistic explanation (in terms of the qualitative interactions of the structural parts of a whole) has been developed as an alternative to the traditional idea of explanation as derivation from laws or quantitative principles. Against the picture promoted by Carl Craver, that mathematical models describe but do not explain, my discussion of cases from the strand of evo-devo which is concerned with developmental processes points to qualitative phenomena where quantitative mathematical models are an indispensable part of the explanation. While philosophical accounts have focused on the actual organization and operation of mechanisms, properties of developmental mechanisms that are about how a mechanism reacts to modifications are of major evolutionary significance, including robustness, phenotypic plasticity, and modularity. A philosophical conception of mechanisms is needed that takes into account quantitative changes, transient entities and the generation of novel types of entities, feedback loops and complex interaction networks, emergent properties, and, in particular, functional-dynamical aspects of mechanisms, including functional (as opposed to structural) organization and distributed, system-wide phenomena. I conclude with general remarks on philosophical accounts of explanation. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychology and the selectionist theories of neural development are usually regarded as two unrelated theories addressing two logically distinct questions. The focus of evolutionary psychology is the phylogeny of the human mind, whereas the selectionist theories of neural development analyse the ontogeny of the mind. This paper will endeavour to combine these two approaches in the explanation of the human mind. Doing so might help in overcoming some of the criticisms of both theories. The first part (...) of the paper mentions three standard objections to evolutionary psychology and then outlines three philosophical problems evolutionary psychology has to offer a solution to. The second part will try to show that an approach combining evolutionary psychology and the selectionist theory of neural development might overcome some of these objections. (shrink)
Cognitive ethology is the comparative study of animal cognition from an evolutionary perspective. As a sub-discipline of biology it shares interest in questions concerning the immediate causes and development of behavior. As a part of ethology it is also concerned with questions about the function and evolution of behavior. I examine some recent work in cognitive ethology, and I argue that the notions of mental content and representation are important to enable researchers to answer questions and state generalizations about (...) the function and volution of behavior. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychology is a science in the making, working toward the goal of showing how psychological adaptation underlies much human behavior. The knee-jerk reaction that sociobiology is unscientific because it tells just-so stories has become a common charge against evolutionary psychology as well. My main positive thesis is that inference to the best explanation is a proper method for evolutionary analyses, and it supplies a new perspective on the issues raised in Schlinger's (1996) just-so story critique. (...) My main negative thesis is that, like many nonevolutionist critics, Schlinger's objections arise from misunderstandings of the evolutionary approach.Evolutionary psychology has progressed beyond telling just-so stories. It has found a host of ingenious special techniques to test hypotheses about the adaptive significance and proximate mechanisms of behavior. Naturalistic data using the comparative method combined with controlled tests using statistical analyses of data provide good evidence for a variety of hypotheses about behavioral control mechanisms — whether in nonhumans or in humans. For instance, the work of Gangestad and Thornhill on evolved mate preferences and fluctuating asymmetry of body type (FA) is a model of success. As the quantity and quality of evidence increase, we are entitled not just to regard such evolutionary hypotheses as preferable, but also as true. Such studies combine to show that the best explanation of the psychic unity of humankind — common patterns across societies, history, and cultures exposed by evolutionists — is the gendered, adapted, evolved species-typical design of the mind. (shrink)
This paper details an evolving dynamic systems hierarchy and explores its relationship with conceptual, evolutionary, physiological, and behavioural characteristics that include phenomenal experience. In doing this, the paper demonstrates an example of a type-C physicalist's reductive explanation of phenomenal experience that is coherent with stipulated philosophical criteria and theories. By providing a reductive explanation of phenomenal experience, the paper provides insights toward explaining many unique human characteristics. These include, creativity, the origins of language as distinct from animal (...) communication, the evolution of morality, and the dynamics behind bias and prejudice. Furthermore, the reductive explanation provides foundations for artificial consciousness applications. (shrink)
In this controversial new book O'Hear takes a stand against the fashion for explaining human behavior in terms of evolution. He contends that while the theory of evolution is successful in explaining the development of the natural world in general, it is of limited value when applied to the human world. Because of our reflectiveness and our rationality we take on goals and ideals which cannot be justified in terms of survival-promotion or reproductive advantage. O'Hear examines the nature of human (...) self-consciousness, and argues that evolutionary theory cannot give a satisfactory account of such distinctive facets of human life as the quest for knowledge, moral sense, and the appreciation of beauty; in these we transcend our biological origins. It is our rationality that allows each of us to go beyond not only our biological but also our cultural inheritance: as the author says in the Preface, "we are prisoners neither of our genes nor of the ideas we encounter as we each make our personal and individual way through life.". (shrink)
Natural selection explains how living forms are fitted to theirconditions of life. Darwin argued that selection also explains what hecalled the gradual advancement of the organisation, i.e.evolutionary progress. Present-day selectionists disagree. In theirview, it is happenstance that sustains conditions favorable to progress,and therefore happenstance, not selection, that explains progress. Iargue that the disagreement here turns not on whether there exists aselection-based condition bias – a belief now attributed to Darwin – but on whether there needs to be such a (...) bias for selection to count as explaining progress. In Darwin''s own view, selection explained progressso far as more complex organisms have the selective advantage whenselection operates unimpeded. I show that these two explanations ofevolutionary progress, selection and happenstance, answer for theirobjectivity to different standards, and for their truth or falsehood todifferent features of the world. (shrink)
Chance comes into plays at many levels of the explanation of the evolutionary process; but the unity of sense of this category is problematic. The purpose of this talk is to clarify the meaning of chance at various levels in evolutionary theory: mutations, genetic drift, genetic revolutions, ecosystems, macroevolution. Three main concepts of chance are found at these various levels: luck (popular concept), randomness (probabilistic concept), and contingency relative to a given theoretical system (epistemological concept). After identifying (...) which concept(s) of chance fit(s) with these levels, the question is raised whether these concepts can be reduced to a smaller number, and whether chance in evolutionary theory has a subjective or an objective sense. (shrink)
In this paper, I study the application of phylogenetic analysis in evolutionary archaeology. I show how transfer of this apparently general analytic tool is affected by salient differences in disciplinary context. One is that archaeologists, unlike many biologists, do not regard cladistics as a tool for classification, but are primarily interested in explanation. The other is that explanation is traditionally sought in terms of individual-level rather than population-level mechanisms. The latter disciplinary difference creates an ambiguity in the (...) application and interpretation of phylogenetic analyses. Moreover, I argue that, while archaeologists have claimed that “cladistics is useful for reconstructing artefact phylogenies” (O’Brien et al. 2001), these reconstructions only contribute minimally to the explanatory research agenda of evolutionary archaeology. (shrink)
Darren, attributing this argument to Hume, tells us that Hume rejected step #4. So do I. I am a compatibilist: I accept the scientific worldview that everything can be explained by natural, causal laws, but I believe that human actions (and biological functions) can still be explained teleologically, by their ends – a precondition for freedom. This paper is one of a series of attempts to show how such campatibilism is possible, this time by focusing on the nature of (...) class='Hi'>explanation. (shrink)
The purely theoretical notion of fitness or optimality that is employed for instance in optimization theory has come under attack from those who think that only a more historically based notion of fitness could have a central role in evolutionaryexplanation. They argue that the key notion is proven usefulness rather than theoretical usefulness. This paper articulates a notion of theoretical usefulness and defends its role in functional evolutionary explanations.
Evolutionary psychology has seen the majority of its success exploring adaptive features of the mind believed to be ubiquitous across our species. This has given rise to the belief that the adaptationist approach has little to offer the field of differential psychology, which concerns itself exclusively with the ways in which individuals systematically differ. By framing the historical origins of both disciplines, and exploring the means through which they each address the unique challenges of psychological description and explanation, (...) the present article identifies the conceptual and theoretical problems that have kept differential psychology isolated not only from evolutionary psychology, but from explanatory approaches in general. Paying special attention to these conceptual problems, the authors review how these difficulties are being overcome by contemporary evolutionary research, and offer instructive suggestions concerning how differential researchers (and others) can best build upon these innovations. (shrink)
In recent years, the concept of evolvability has been gaining in prominence both within evolutionary developmental biology (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)
Recent work on self organization promises an explanation of complex order which is independent of adaptation. Self-organizing systems are complex systems of simple units, projecting order as a consequence of localized and generally nonlinear interactions between these units. Stuart Kauffman offers one variation on the theme of self-organization, offering what he calls a ``statistical mechanics'' for complex systems. This paper explores the explanatory strategies deployed in this ``statistical mechanics,'' initially focusing on the autonomy of statistical explanation as it (...) applies in evolutionary settings and then turning to Kauffman's analysis. Two primary morals emerge as a consequence of this examination: first, the view that adaptation and self-organization should be seen as competing theories or models is misleading and simplistic; and second, while we need a synthesis treating self-organization and adaptation as geared toward different problems, at different levels of organization, and deploying different methods, we do not yet have such a synthesis. (shrink)
This paper takes a close look at the role of behavior in the “major transitions” in evolution—events during which inheritance and development, and therefore the process of adaptation by natural selection, are reorganized at a new level of compositional hierarchy—and at the requirements for sufficiently explaining these important events in the history of life. I argue that behavior played a crucial role in driving at least some of the major transitions. Because behavioral interactions can become stably organized in novel ways (...) on timescales faster than the lifetime of an organism, behavior can lead the way into a transition—becoming organized at the new level prior to inheritance and development. It is widely acknowledged that behavioral plasticity can play an important role in evolution; environmental novelty can elicit novel behavior that may feed back on the evolutionary process through niche selection or cultural inheritance, for example (Jablonka and Lamb 2005). I argue here that not just novel behaviors but novel forms of behavioral organization (distributed or hierarchical control that produces functional coherence) can emerge, binding the evolutionary fates of a group of organisms which were previously independent in terms of behavior as well as reproduction, and leading the way into a transition to an aggregative or “higher-level” mode of reproduction. (shrink)
As is well known, Alan Turing drew a line, embodied in the "Turing test," between intellectual and physical abilities, and hence between cognitive and natural sciences. Less familiarly, he proposed that one way to produce a "passer" would be to educate a "child machine," equating the experimenter's improvements in the initial structure of the child machine with genetic mutations, while supposing that the experimenter might achieve improvements more expeditiously than natural selection. On the other hand, in his foundational "On the (...) chemical basis of morphogenesis," Turing insisted that biological explanation clearly confine itself to purely physical and chemical means, eschewing vitalist and teleological talk entirely and hewing to D'Arcy Thompson's line that "evolutionary 'explanations,'" are historical and narrative in character, employing the same intentional and teleological vocabulary we use in doing human history, and hence, while perhaps on occasion of heuristic value, are not part of biology as a natural science. To apply Turing's program to recent issues, the attempt to give foundations to the social and cognitive sciences in the "real science" of evolutionary biology (as opposed to Turing's biology) is neither to give foundations, nor to achieve the unification of the social/cognitive sciences and the natural sciences. (shrink)
Several philosophers of science have advanced an instrumentalist thesis about the use of probabilities in evolutionary biology. I investigate the consequences of instrumentalism on evolutionary explanations. I take issue with Barbara Horan's (1994) argument that probabilities are unnecessary to explain evolutionary change given the underlying deterministic character of evolutionary processes. First, I question Horan's deterministic assumption. Then, I attempt to undermine her Laplacian argument by demonstrating that whether probabilities are necessary depends upon the sort of questions (...) one is asking. (shrink)
From their conception to the present, the social sciences have invoked a kind of explanation that looks suspect by the standards of the natural sciences. They explain why social practices exist by reference to the purpose or needs they serve. Yet the purposes invoked are generally not the explicit purposes or needs of any individual but of society or social groups. For example, Durkheim claimed that the division of labor in society exists in order to promote social solidarity and (...) Marx thought that the state served to promote the interests of the ruling class. Social scientists have found these explanations as irresistible as their critics have found them mysterious. This chapter traces the controversies over these explanations — generally called functional explanations — and argues that they are widespread in some of our best current social science and that they can provide compelling information in some cases, despite the many doubts about them. (shrink)
A new evolutionary concept is presented, based on the principle of biological diversity by organismal adaptation, more specifically the origin of the first variations and the process leading to speciation. The article suggests the mechanism of stimulation as the major promoter of genetic variation, making an overall assessment and accurate to the natural phenomenon responsible for this evolutionary step. Constantly, environmental forces interact with the organism, favoring changes to the organs toward adaptation. Stimulation focuses on this action?reaction between (...) organism and environment, trying to decipher the causes/consequences resulting. The article also addresses possible relationships and constraints with neo-Darwinism. (shrink)
Gender differences in aggression are highly variable; there is significant evidence that this variability is as much a function of social and cultural conditions as evolutionary processes. While some of these conditions may reflect resource scarcities as Campbell proposes, others are inconsistent with her perspective or are explained equally well by other perspectives.
Within the Cognitive Science of Religion, Justin Barrett has proposed that humans possess a hyperactive agency detection device that was selected for in our evolutionary past because ‘over detecting’ (as opposed to ‘under detecting’) the existence of a predator conferred a survival advantage. Within the Intelligent Design debate, William Dembski has proposed the law of small probability, which states that specified events of small probability do not occur by chance. Within the Fine-Tuning debate, John Leslie has asserted a tidiness (...) principle such that, if we can think of a good explanation for some state of affairs, then an explanation is needed for that state of affairs. In this paper I examine similarities between these three proposals and suggest that they can all be explained with reference to the existence of an explanation attribution module in the human mind. The forgoing analysis is considered with reference to a contrast between classical rationality and what Gerd Gigerenzer and others have called ecological rationality. (shrink)
This article deals with a type of functional explanation, viability explanation, that has been overlooked in recent philosophy of science. Viability explanations relate traits of organisms and their environments in terms of what an individual needs to survive and reproduce. I show that viability explanations are neither causal nor historical and that, therefore, they should be accounted for as a distinct type of explanation.