Abstract : In this paper, it is argued that Leibniz’s view that necessity is grounded in the availability of a demonstration is incorrect and furthermore, can be shown to be so by using Leibniz’s own examples of infinite analyses. First, I show that modern mathematical logic makes clear that Leibniz’s "infinite analysis" view of contingency is incorrect. It is then argued that Leibniz's own examples of incommensurable lines and convergent series undermine, rather than bolster his view by providing examples of (...) necessary mathematical truths that are not demonstrable. Finally, it is argued that a more modern view on convergent series would, in certain respects, help support some claims he makes about the necessity of mathematical truths, but would still not yield a viable theory of necessity due to remaining problems with other logical, mathematical, and modal claims. (shrink)
Common ancestry is one of the pillars of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Today, the Tree of Life, which represents how all life is genealogically related, is often thought of as an essential component in the foundations of biological systematics and so therefore of evolutionary theory – and perhaps all of biology itself. It is an iconic representation in biology and even penetrates into popular culture.
The project of this paper is to understand what a phylogenetic tree represents and to discuss some of the implications that this has for the practice of systematics. At least the first part of this task, if not both parts, might appear trivial—or perhaps better suited for a single page in a textbook rather than a scholarly research paper. But this would be a mistake. While the task of interpreting phylogenetic trees is often treated in a trivial way, their interpretation (...) is tied to foundational conceptual questions at the heart of systematics—questions whose answers are hotly disputed. I have previously argued that widely shared ideas about the meaning and interpretation of phylogenetic trees are inconsistent with species concepts other than some genealogical version of a phylogenetic species concept (Velasco 2008). Here I rely on a similar approach and concentrate on the implications of the necessary conditions underlying the inferences that we make using phylogenetic trees. I argue that common practices for the interpretation and use of trees are in conflict and that unacceptable principles about species as units of phylogeny must be given up. According to the view that I will develop, all phylogenetic trees depict the history of populations. The branches on trees represent collections of population lineages through time and the splits represent population lineage splits. This is true regardless of whether the tips of the trees are themselves populations, or are species or higher taxa. Although this conclusion might be paired naturally with a view that species must be monophyletic groups, this population-centric view of trees is independent of that view of species. If we still want to have species that are paraphyletic groups of populations, this is permissible as long as we also do not treat species as the units of phylogeny. This population-centric view opposes a species-centric view of phylogeny and might be called a “rank-free” approach since it entails that we do not need to determine which groups are species (which is partly a ranking question) in order to build a tree. This conclusion and the argument for it are meant to be consistent with, but not require, acceptance of the conclusions of Velasco (2008) regarding species. (shrink)
Phylogenetics is the study and reconstruction of evolutionary history and is filled with numerous foundational issues of interest to philosophers. This paper briefly introduces some central concepts in the field, describes some of the main methods for inferring phylogenies, and provides some arguments for the superiority of model-based methods such as Likelihood and Bayesian methods over nonparametric methods such as parsimony. It also raises some underdeveloped issues in the field of interest to philosophers.
We argue for a new conventionalism about many kinds of evolutionary groups, including clades, cohesive units, and populations. This rejects a consensus, which says that given any one of the many legitimate grouping concepts, only objective biological facts determine whether a collection is such a group. Surprisingly, being any one kind of evolutionary group typically depends on which of many incompatible values are taken by suppressed variables. This is a novel pluralism underlying most any one group concept, rather than a (...) familiar pluralism claiming many concepts are legitimate. Consequently, we must help biological facts determine grouphood, even when given a single grouping concept. (shrink)
In this paper I address the question of whether the probabilities that appear in models of stochastic gene expression are objective or subjective. I argue that while our best models of the phenomena in question are stochastic models, this fact should not lead us to automatically assume that the processes are inherently stochastic. After distinguishing between models and reality, I give a brief introduction to the philosophical problem of the interpretation of probability statements. I argue that the objective vs. subjective (...) distinction is a false dichotomy and is an unhelpful distinction in this case. Instead, the probabilities in our models of gene expression exhibit standard features of both objectivity and subjectivity. (shrink)
The wide scope of philosophy of biology Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9619-0 Authors Joel D. Velasco, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, MC 101-40, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
A common view is that species occupy a unique position on the Tree of Life. Evaluating this claim requires an understanding of what the Tree of Life represents. The Tree represents history, but there are at least three biological levels that are often said to have genealogies: species, organisms, and genes. Here I focus on defending the plausibility of a gene-based account of the Tree. This leads to an account of species that are determined by gene genealogies. On this view, (...) an exclusive group is a group of organisms that forms a clade for a higher proportion of the genome than any conflicting clade. Taxa occupy a unique position in what can be called the ‘primary concordance tree’. But each gene has its own historical ‘Tree of Life’. I conclude by arguing that both organismal pedigrees with their corresponding Tree as well as gene genealogies and their trees are objectively real and play important, but different, roles in biological practice. (shrink)
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 (...) fit to data alone, networks that have lateral branches will always fit the data at least as well as any network that restricts itself to vertical branches. This is analogous to the well-studied problem of overfitting data in the curve-fitting problem. Analogous problems often have analogous solutions and we propose to treat network inference as a case of model selection and use the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC). Strictly tree-like networks are more parsimonious than those that postulate lateral as well as vertical branches. This leads to the conclusion that we should not always infer LGT events whenever it would improve our fit-to-data, but should do so only when the improved fit is larger than the penalty for adding extra lateral branches. (shrink)
A natural starting place for developing a phylogenetic species concept is to examine monophyletic groups of organisms. Proponents of “the” Phylogenetic Species Concept fall into one of two camps. The first camp denies that species even could be monophyletic and groups organisms using character traits. The second groups organisms using common ancestry and requires that species must be monophyletic. I argue that neither view is entirely correct. While monophyletic groups of organisms exist, they should not be equated with species. Instead, (...) species must meet the more restrictive criterion of being genealogically exclusive groups where the members are more closely related to each other than to anything outside the group. I carefully spell out different versions of what this might mean and arrive at a working definition of exclusivity that forms groups that can function within phylogenetic theory. I conclude by arguing that while a phylogenetic species concept must use exclusivity as a grouping criterion, a variety of ranking criteria are consistent with the requirement that species can be placed on phylogenetic trees. (shrink)
Many phylogenetic systematists have criticized the Biological Species Concept (BSC) because it distorts evolutionary history. While defenses against this particular criticism have been attempted, I argue that these responses are unsuccessful. In addition, I argue that the source of this problem leads to previously unappreciated, and deeper, fatal objections. These objections to the BSC also straightforwardly apply to other species concepts that are not defined by genealogical history. What is missing from many previous discussions is the fact that the Tree (...) of Life, which represents phylogenetic history, is independent of our choice of species concept. Some species concepts are consistent with species having unique positions on the Tree while others, including the BSC, are not. Since representing history is of primary importance in evolutionary biology, these problems lead to the conclusion that the BSC, along with many other species concepts, are unacceptable. If species are to be taxa used in phylogenetic inferences, we need a history-based species concept. (shrink)
Bayesian methods have become among the most popular methods in phylogenetics, but theoretical opposition to this methodology remains. After providing an introduction to Bayesian theory in this context, I attempt to tackle the problem mentioned most often in the literature: the “problem of the priors”—how to assign prior probabilities to tree hypotheses. I first argue that a recent objection—that an appropriate assignment of priors is impossible—is based on a misunderstanding of what ignorance and bias are. I then consider different methods (...) of assigning prior probabilities to trees. I argue that priors need to be derived from an understanding of how distinct taxa have evolved and that the appropriate evolutionary model is captured by the Yule birth–death process. This process leads to a well-known statistical distribution over trees. Though further modifications may be necessary to model more complex aspects of the branching process, they must be modifications to parameters in an underlying Yule model. Ignoring these Yule priors commits a fallacy leading to mistaken inferences both about the trees themselves and about macroevolutionary processes more generally. (shrink)