I characterize Wimsatt’s approach to philosophy of science as philosophy for science and then briefly consider a theme emerging from his work that informs just one of the many current developments in philosophy of biology that he inspired: scaffolding as a problem of mechanistic explanation for functionalists.
We argue that ‘locality’, perhaps the most mundane term in ecology, holds a basic ambiguity: two concepts of space—nomothetic and idiographic—which are both necessary for a rigorous resurvey to “the same” locality in the field, are committed to different practices with no common measurement. A case study unfolds the failure of the standard assumption that an exogenous grid of longitude and latitude, as fine‐grained as one wishes, suffices for revisiting a species locality. We briefly suggest a scale‐dependent “resolution” for this (...) replication problem, since it has no general, rational solution. *Received January 2008; revised April 2009. †To contact the authors, please write to: Ayelet Shavit, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Tel‐Hai Academic College, Upper Galilee, 12210 Israel; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . James Griesemer, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616; e‐mail: email@example.com . Biodiversity is largely a matter of real estate. And, as with other real estate, location is everything. (Kiester at el. 1996 ). (shrink)
The themes, problems and challenges of developmental systems theory as described in Cycles of Contingency are discussed. We argue in favor of a robust approach to philosophical and scientific problems of extended heredity and the integration of behavior, development, inheritance, and evolution. Problems with Sterelny's proposal to evaluate inheritance systems using his `Hoyle criteria' are discussed and critically evaluated. Additional support for a developmental systems perspective is sought in evolutionary studies of performance and behavior modulation of fitness.
Developmental systems theory (DST) expands the unit of replication from genes to whole systems of developmental resources, which DST interprets in terms of cycling developmental processes. Expansion seems required by DST's argument against privileging genes in evolutionary and developmental explanations of organic traits. DST and the expanded replicator brook no distinction between biological and cultural evolution. However, by endorsing a single expanded unit of inheritance and leaving the classical molecular notion of gene intact, DST achieves only a nominal reunification of (...) heredity and development. I argue that an alternative conceptualization of inheritance denies the classical opposition of genetics and development while avoiding the singularity inherent in the replicator concept. It also yields a new unit--the reproducer--which genuinely integrates genetic and developmental perspectives. The reproducer concept articulates the non-separability of "genetic" and "developmental" roles in units of heredity, development, and evolution. DST reformulated in terms of reproducers rather than replicators preserves an empirically interesting distinction between cultural and biological evolution. (shrink)
In a previous study, using experimental metapopulations of the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, we investigated phase III of Wright's shifting balance process (Wade and Griesemer 1998). We experimentally modeled migration of varying amounts from demes of high mean fitness into demes of lower mean fitness (as in Wright's characterization of phase III) as well as the reciprocal (the opposite of phase III). We estimated the meta-populational heritability for this level of selection by regression of offspring deme means on the weighted (...) parental deme means.Here we develop a Punnett Square representation of the inheritance of the group mean to place our empirical findings in a conceptual context similar to Mendelian inheritance of individual traits. The comparison of Punnett Squares for individual and group inheritance shows how the latter concept can be rigorously defined and extended despite the lack of explicitly formulated, simple Mendelian laws of inheritance at the group level. Whereas Wright's phase III combines both interdemic selection and meta-populational inheritance, our formulation separates the issue of meta-populational heritability from that of interdemic selection. We use this conceptual context to discuss the controversies over the levels of selection and the units of inheritance. (shrink)
Scientists use a variety of modes of representation in their work, but philosophers have studied mainly sentences expressing propositions. I ask whether diagrams are mere conveniences in expressing propositions or whether they are a distinct, ineliminable mode of representation in scientific texts. The case of path analysis, a statistical method for quantitatively assessing the relative degree of causal determination of variation as expressed in a causal path diagram, is discussed. Path analysis presents a worst case for arguments against eliminability since (...) path diagrams are usually presumed to be mathematically or logically “equivalent” in an important sense to sets of linear path equations. I argue that path diagrams are strongly generative, i.e., that they add analytical power to path analysis beyond what is supplied by linear equations, and therefore that they are ineliminable in a strong scientific sense. (shrink)
Accounts of the relation between theories and models in biology concentrate on mathematical models. In this paper I consider the dual role of models as representations of natural systems and as a material basis for theorizing. In order to explicate the dual role, I develop the concept of a remnant model, a material entity made from parts of the natural system(s) under study. I present a case study of an important but neglected naturalist, Joseph Grinnell, to illustrate the extent to (...) which mundane practices in a museum setting constitute theorizing. I speculate that historical and sociological analyses of institutions can play a specific role in the philosophical analysis of model-building strategies. (shrink)
Propositions alone are not constitutive of science. But is the "non-propositional" side of science theoretically superfluous: must philosophy of science consider it in order to adequately account for science? I explore the boundary between the propositional and non-propositional sides of biological theory, drawing on three cases: Grinnell's remnant models of faunas, Wright's path analysis, and Weismannism's role in the generalization of evolutionary theory. I propose a picture of material model-building in biology in which manipulated systems of material objects function as (...) theoretical models. In each of the cases, material systems such as diagrams play important generative as well as presentational roles. (shrink)
This paper characterizes the role of the experimenter in causal explanations of laboratory phenomena. Causal explanation rests on appeals to the experimenter's efficacy as a causal agent. I contrast "demographic" and "genetic" explanations of stochastic outcomes in a set of competition experiments in ecology. The demographic view ascribes causes to the experimenter's agency in setting up the experiment and to events within the experimental set-up. The genetic view ascribes causes to an unrecognized effect of the experimenter's sampling process prior to (...) the experimental set-up. (shrink)
We develop an account of laboratory models, which have been central to the group selection controversy. We compare arguments for group selection in nature with Darwin's arguments for natural selection to argue that laboratory models provide important grounds for causal claims about selection. Biologists get information about causes and cause-effect relationships in the laboratory because of the special role their own causal agency plays there. They can also get information about patterns of effects and antecedent conditions in nature. But to (...) argue that some cause is actually responsible in nature, they require an inference from knowledge of causes in the laboratory context and of effects in the natural context. This process, cause detection, forms the core of an analogical argument for group selection. We discuss the differing roles of mathematical and laboratory models in constructing selective explanations at the group level and apply our discussion to the units of selection controversy to distinguish between the related problems of cause determination and evaluation of evidence. Because laboratory models are at the intersection of the two problems, their study is crucial for framing a coherent theory of explanation for evolutionary biology. (shrink)
The concept of a presentation of a theory is often introduced in discussions of the "semantic view" of theories to characterize the way in which models for a theory are specified. Presentations are most often thought of as definitions of the kinds of systems represented in the models. It is argued that the concept of a presentation can be widened to permit consideration of the links between epistemologically motivated accounts of theory structure and some metaphysically motivated accounts of the growth (...) of scientific knowledge. Conceptual maps are discussed as a possible elaboration of presentations which support Hull's metaphysical conception of theories as conceptual historical entities. (shrink)