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Profile: Grant Ramsey (KU Leuven)
  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.  49
    Grant Ramsey (2013). Human Nature in a Post-Essentialist World. Philosophy of Science 80 (5):983-993.
    In this paper I examine a well-known articulation of the skeptical view of human nature, a paper by Hull. I then review a recent reply to Hull by Machery. I show that Machery’s account of human nature is not very useful and is scientifically suspect. Finally, I introduce an alternative account of human nature—the “life-history trait cluster” conception of human nature—which I hold is scientifically sound, pragmatically useful, and makes sense of our intuitions about human nature.
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  3.  79
    Grant Ramsey & Anne Siebels Peterson (2012). Sameness in Biology. Philosophy of Science 79 (2):255-275.
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  4.  27
    Grant Ramsey & Andreas De Block (forthcoming). Is Cultural Fitness Hopelessly Confused? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axv047.
    Fitness is a central concept in evolutionary theory. Just as it is central to biological evolution, so, it seems, it should be central to cultural evolutionary theory. But importing the biological fitness concept to CET is no straightforward task—there are many features unique to cultural evolution that make this difficult. This has led some theorists to argue that there are fundamental problems with cultural fitness that render it hopelessly confused. In this essay, we defend the coherency of cultural fitness against (...)
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  5.  12
    Grant Ramsey (2006). Block Fitness. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 37 (3):484-498.
    There are three related criteria that a concept of fitness should be able to meet: it should render the principle of natural selection non-tautologous and it should be explanatory and predictive. I argue that for fitness to be able to fulfill these criteria, it cannot be a property that changes over the course of an individual’s life. Rather, I introduce a fitness concept—Block Fitness—and argue that an individual’s genes and environment fix its fitness in such a way that each individual’s (...)
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  6.  14
    Grant Ramsey (2013). Driftability. Synthese 190 (17):3909-3928.
    In this paper, I argue (contra some recent philosophical work) that an objective distinction between natural selection and drift can be drawn. I draw this distinction by conceiving of drift, in the most fundamental sense, as an individual-level phenomenon. This goes against some other attempts to distinguish selection from drift, which have argued either that drift is a population-level process or that it is a population-level product. Instead of identifying drift with population-level features, the account introduced here can explain these (...)
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  7.  16
    Grant Ramsey (forthcoming). The Causal Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-14.
    ABSTRACTOne contentious debate in the philosophy of biology is that between the statisticalists and causalists. The former understand core evolutionary concepts like fitness and selection to be mere statistical summaries of underlying causal processes. In this view, evolutionary changes cannot be causally explained by selection or fitness. The causalist side, on the other hand, holds that populations can change in response to selection—one can cite fitness differences or driftability in causal explanations of evolutionary change. But, on the causalist side, it (...)
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  8. 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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  9.  14
    Grant Ramsey (forthcoming). Can Altruism Be Unified? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.
    There is clearly a plurality of forms of altruism. Classically, biological altruism is distinguished from psychological altruism. Recent discussions of altruism have attempted to distinguish even more forms of altruism. I will focus on three altruism concepts, biological altruism, psychological altruism, and helping altruism. The questions I am concerned with here are, first, how should we understand these concepts? and second, what relationship do these concepts bear to one another? In particular, is there an essence to altruism that unifies these (...)
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  10.  20
    Grant Ramsey (2013). Culture in Humans and Other Animals. Biology and Philosophy 28 (3):457-479.
    The study of animal culture is a flourishing field, with culture being recorded in a wide range of taxa, including non-human primates, birds, cetaceans, and rodents. In spite of this research, however, the concept of culture itself remains elusive. There is no universally assented to concept of culture, and there is debate over the connection between culture and related concepts like tradition and social learning. Furthermore, it is not clear whether culture in humans and culture in non-human animals is really (...)
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  11.  25
    Grant Ramsey (2012). How Human Nature Can Inform Human Enhancement: A Commentary on Tim Lewens's Human Nature: The Very Idea. Philosophy and Technology 25 (4):479-483.
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  12.  15
    Robert N. Brandon & Grant Ramsey (2007). What's Wrong with the Emergentist Statistical Interpretation of Natural Selection and Random Drift. In David L. Hull & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge University Press 66--84.
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  13.  3
    Michael J. Deem & Grant Ramsey (forthcoming). Guilt by Association? Philosophical Psychology:1-16.
    Recent evolutionary perspectives on guilt tend to focus on how guilt functions as a means for the individual to self-regulate behavior and as a mechanism for reinforcing cooperative tendencies. While these accounts highlight important dimensions of guilt and provide important insights into its evolutionary emergence, they pay scant attention to the large empirical literature on its maladaptive effects on individuals. This paper considers the nature of guilt, explores its biological function, and provides an evolutionary perspective on (...)
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  14.  28
    Grant Ramsey (2013). Can Fitness Differences Be a Cause of Evolution? Philosophy and Theory in Biology 5 (20130604).
    Biological fitness is a foundational concept in the theory of natural selection. Natural selection is often defined in terms of fitness differences as “any consistent difference in fitness (i.e., survival and reproduction) among phenotypically different biological entities” (Futuyma 1998, 349). And in Lewontin’s (1970) classic articulation of the theory of natural selection, he lists fitness differences as one of the necessary conditions for evolution by natural selection to occur. Despite this foundational position of fitness, there remains much debate over the (...)
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  15.  30
    Grant Ramsey (2007). The Fundamental Constraint on the Evolution of Culture. Biology and Philosophy 22 (3):401-414.
    This paper argues that there is a general constraint on the evolution of culture. This constraint – what I am calling the Fundamental Constraint – must be satisfied in order for a cultural system to be adaptive. The Fundamental Constraint is this: for culture to be adaptive there must be a positive correlation between the fitness of cultural variants and their fitness impact on the organisms adopting those variants. Two ways of satisfying the Fundamental Constraint are introduced, structural solutions and (...)
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  16.  3
    Michael J. Deem & Grant Ramsey (2016). Guilt by Association? Philosophical Psychology:1-16.
    Recent evolutionary perspectives on guilt tend to focus on how guilt functions as a means for the individual to self-regulate behavior and as a mechanism for reinforcing cooperative tendencies. While these accounts highlight important dimensions of guilt and provide important insights into its evolutionary emergence, they pay scant attention to the large empirical literature on its maladaptive effects on individuals. This paper considers the nature of guilt, explores its biological function, and provides an evolutionary perspective on (...)
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  17.  23
    Grant Ramsey, Meredith L. Bastian & Carel van Schaik (2007). Animal Innovation Defined and Operationalized. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (4):393-407.
    Innovation is a key component of most definitions of culture and intelligence. Additionally, innovations may affect a species' ecology and evolution. Nonetheless, conceptual and empirical work on innovation has only recently begun. In particular, largely because the existing operational definition (first occurrence in a population) requires long-term studies of populations, there has been no systematic study of innovation in wild animals. To facilitate such study, we have produced a new definition of innovation: Innovation is the process that generates in an (...)
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  18.  57
    Grant Ramsey & Robert Brandon (2011). Why Reciprocal Altruism is Not a Kind of Group Selection. Biology and Philosophy 26 (3):385-400.
    Reciprocal altruism was originally formulated in terms of individual selection and most theorists continue to view it in this way. However, this interpretation of reciprocal altruism has been challenged by Sober and Wilson (1998). They argue that reciprocal altruism (as well as all other forms of altruism) evolves by the process of group selection. In this paper, we argue that the original interpretation of reciprocal altruism is the correct one. We accomplish this by arguing that if fitness attaches to (at (...)
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  19.  8
    Andreas De Block & Grant Ramsey (forthcoming). The Organism-Centered Approach to Cultural Evolution. Topoi.
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  20.  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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  21. Grant Ramsey (2006). Block Fitness. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37 (3):484-498.
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  22.  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.
  23.  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.
  24.  8
    Grant Ramsey & Anne Siebels Peterson (2012). Sameness in Biology. Philosophy of Science 79 (2):255-275.
  25.  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.
  26.  4
    Grant Ramsey, Meredith L. Bastian & Carel van Schaik (2007). On the Concept of Animal Innovation and the Challenge of Studying Innovation in the Wild. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (4):425-432.
    The commentaries have both drawn out the implications of, and challenged, our definition and operationalization of innovation. In this response, we reply to these concerns, discuss the differences between our operationalization and the preexisting operationalization if innovation, and make suggestions for the advancement of the challenging and exciting field of animal innovation.
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  27. Grant Ramsey & Charles H. Pence (eds.) (forthcoming). Chance in Evolution.
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