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Profile: Grant Ramsey (University of Notre Dame)
  1. Grant Ramsey (2014). Human Nature in a Post-Essentialist World. Philosophy of Science 80 (5):983-993.
    In this essay I examine a well-known articulation of human nature skepticism, a paper by Hull. I then review a recent reply to Hull by Machery, which argues for an account of human nature that he claims is both useful and scientifically robust. I challenge Machery’s account and introduce an alternative account—the “life-history trait cluster” conception of human nature—that I hold is scientifically sound and makes sense of (at least some of) our intuitions about—and desiderata for—human nature.
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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. Grant Ramsey & Anne Siebels Peterson (2012). Sameness in Biology. Philosophy of Science 79 (2):255-275.
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  9. Grant Ramsey & Anne Siebels Peterson (2012). Sameness in Biology. Philosophy of Science 79 (2):255-275.
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  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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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  13. 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.
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  14. 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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  15. 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. 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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  17. 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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  18. Grant Ramsey (2006). Block Fitness. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 37 (3):484-498.
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