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Profile: Massimo Pigliucci (City University of New York)
  1. Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.) (forthcoming). The Philosophy of Pseudoscience. University of Chicago Press.
  2. Raphael Scholl & Massimo Pigliucci (forthcoming). The Proximate–Ultimate Distinction and Evolutionary Developmental Biology: Causal Irrelevance Versus Explanatory Abstraction. Biology and Philosophy:1-18.
    Mayr’s proximate–ultimate distinction has received renewed interest in recent years. Here we discuss its role in arguments about the relevance of developmental to evolutionary biology. We show that two recent critiques of the proximate–ultimate distinction fail to explain why developmental processes in particular should be of interest to evolutionary biologists. We trace these failures to a common problem: both critiques take the proximate–ultimate distinction to neglect specific causal interactions in nature. We argue that this is implausible, and that the distinction (...)
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  3. Massimo Pigliucci (2014). A Muddled Defense of New Atheism: On Stenger's Response. Science, Religion and Culture 1 (1):10-14.
    Victor Stenger (this issue) has responded to my recent criticism of the so-called New Athe- ism movement (2013). Here I endeavor to counter Stenger’s note and highlight several of the ways in which it goes astray. To begin with, however, let me summarize the main points of my earlier paper.
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  4. Massimo Pigliucci & Leonard Finkelman (2014). The Value of Public Philosophy to Philosophers. Essays in Philosophy 15 (1):86-102.
    Philosophy has been a public endeavor since its origins in ancient Greece, India, and China. However, recent years have seen the development of a new type of public philosophy conducted by both academics and non- professionals. The new public philosophy manifests itself in a range of modalities, from the publication of magazines and books for the general public to a variety of initiatives that exploit the power and flexibility of social networks and new media. In this paper we examine the (...)
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  5. Guido Barbujani & Massimo Pigliucci (2013). Human Races. Current Biology 23:185-187.
    What is a race? Ernst Mayr (1904–2005) distinguishes between species in which biological change is continuous in space, and species in which groups of populations with different character combinations are separated by borders. In the latter species, the entities separated by borders are geographic races or subspecies. Many anthropology textbooks describe human races as discrete (or nearly discrete) clusters of individuals, geographically localized, each of which shares a set of ancestors, and hence can be distinguished from other races by their (...)
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  6. Maarten Boudry & Massimo Pigliucci (2013). The Mismeasure of Machine: Synthetic Biology and the Trouble with Engineering Metaphors. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (4):660-668.
    The scientific study of living organisms is permeated by machine and design metaphors. Genes are thought of as the ‘‘blueprint’’ of an organism, organisms are ‘‘reverse engineered’’ to discover their func- tionality, and living cells are compared to biochemical factories, complete with assembly lines, transport systems, messenger circuits, etc. Although the notion of design is indispensable to think about adapta- tions, and engineering analogies have considerable heuristic value (e.g., optimality assumptions), we argue they are limited in several important respects. In (...)
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  7. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). A Post-Democratic Future? The Philosophers' Magazine 61 (12 June):16-18.
    As short a time ago as 1992, political scientist Francis Fukuyama was optimistically (and wrongly, as it turned out) predicting “the end of history”, a stable future where liberal democracies would be the norm throughout the world, leading to lasting peace and economic prosperity. A few years later we have Eric Li, who equally gingerly predicts (for example in the pages of Foreign Affairs magazine) a “post-democratic” future, beginning with the success of China. Oh boy.
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  8. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). Between Holism and Reductionism: A Philosophical Primer on Emergence. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.
    Ever since Darwin a great deal of the conceptual history of biology may be read as a struggle between two philosophical positions: reductionism and holism. On the one hand, we have the reductionist claim that evolution has to be understood in terms of changes at the fundamental causal level of the gene. As Richard Dawkins famously put it, organisms are just ‘lumbering robots’ in the service of their genetic masters. On the other hand, there is a long holistic tradition that (...)
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  9. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). Getting a Rise Out of Genetic Engineering. In John Huss (ed.), Planet of the Apes and Philosophy: Great Apes Think Alike. Open Court.
    What makes humans different from other animals, what humans are entitled to do to other species, whether time travel is possible, what limits should be placed on science and technology, the morality and practicality of genetic engineering—these are just some of the philosophical problems raised by Planet of the Apes. Planet of the Apes and Philosophy looks at all the deeper issues involved in the Planet of the Apes stories. It covers the entire franchise, from Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel Monkey (...)
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  10. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheism Movement. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 37 (1):142-153.
    The so-called “New Atheism” is a relatively well-defined, very recent, still unfold- ing cultural phenomenon with import for public understanding of both science and philosophy. Arguably, the opening salvo of the New Atheists was The End of Faith by Sam Harris, published in 2004, followed in rapid succession by a number of other titles penned by Harris himself, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Victor Stenger, and Christopher Hitchens.
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  11. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). On Naturalism. Philosophy Now 96 (96):47-47.
    The term ‘naturalism’ has a long and complex history in modern philosophy. W.V.O. Quine famously advocated what has come to be known as a ‘naturalistic turn’ for philosophy as a discipline, meaning that philosophical thought should become continuous with the natural sciences – even claiming that epistemology (theory of knowledge) is nothing but applied psychology.
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  12. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). Pseudoscience. In Byron Kaldis (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. SAGE.
    The term pseudoscience refers to a highly heterogeneous set of practices, beliefs, and claims sharing the property of appearing to be scientific when in fact they contradict either scientific findings or the methods by which science proceeds. Classic examples of pseudoscience include astrology, parapsychology, and ufology; more recent entries are the denial of a causal link between the HIV virus and AIDS or the claim that vaccines cause autism. To distinguish between science and pseudoscience is part of what the philosopher (...)
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  13. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). The Ajax Dilemma. [REVIEW] Philosophy Now (95).
    In the 5th century BCE, Sophocles wrote a tragedy about the rivalry between the Greek heroes Ajax and Odysseus. The two competed for the title of most valuable man in the army that was laying siege to Troy. The prize was Achilles’ armor (he was dead, you know), which was forged by none other than the god Hephaestus. The Greeks’ leader, Agamemnon, was a bit of a coward, and he made a jury of soldiers decide the contest instead of taking (...)
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  14. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). The Ajax Dilemma by Paul Woodruff. Philosophy Now 95:44-44.
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  15. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). The Demarcation Problem: A (Belated) Response to Laudan. In Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.), Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University of Chicago Press. 9.
    The “demarcation problem,” the issue of how to separate science from pseu- doscience, has been around since fall 1919—at least according to Karl Pop- per’s (1957) recollection of when he first started thinking about it. In Popper’s mind, the demarcation problem was intimately linked with one of the most vexing issues in philosophy of science, David Hume’s problem of induction (Vickers 2010) and, in particular, Hume’s contention that induction cannot be logically justified by appealing to the fact that “it works,” (...)
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  16. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). The Nature of Evolutionary Biology: At the Borderlands Between Historical and Experimental Science. In Kostas Kampourakis (ed.), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer.
    The scientific status of evolutionary theory seems to be more or less perennially under question. I am not referring here (just) to the silliness of young Earth creation- ism (Pigliucci 2002; Boudry and Braeckman 2010), or even of the barely more intel- lectually sophisticated so-called Intelligent Design theory (Recker 2010; Brigandt this volume), but rather to discussions among scientists and philosophers of science concerning the epistemic status of evolutionary theory (Sober 2010). As we shall see in what follows, this debate (...)
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  17. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). What Are We to Make of the Concept of Race? Thoughts of a Philosopher–Scientist. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):272-277.
    Discussions about the biological bases (or lack thereof) of the concept of race in the human species seem to be never ending. One of the latest rounds is represented by a paper by Neven Sesardic, which attempts to build a strong scientific case for the existence of human races, based on genetic, morphometric and behavioral characteristics, as well as on a thorough critique of opposing positions. In this paper I show that Sesardic’s critique falls far short of the goal, and (...)
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  18. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). What Hard Problem? Philosophy Now (99).
    The philosophical study of consciousness is chock full of thought experiments: John Searle’s Chinese Room, David Chalmers’ Philosophical Zombies, Frank Jackson’s Mary’s Room, and Thomas Nagel’s ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ among others. Many of these experiments and the endless discussions that follow them are predicated on what Chalmers famously referred as the ‘hard’ problem of consciousness: for him, it is ‘easy’ to figure out how the brain is capable of perception, information integration, attention, reporting on mental (...)
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  19. Massimo Pigliucci (2013). When Science Studies Religion: Six Philosophy Lessons for Science Classes. Science and Education 22 (1):49-67.
    It is an unfortunate fact of academic life that there is a sharp divide between science and philosophy, with scientists often being openly dismissive of philosophy, and philosophers being equally contemptuous of the naivete ́ of scientists when it comes to the philosophical underpinnings of their own discipline. In this paper I explore the possibility of reducing the distance between the two sides by introducing science students to some interesting philosophical aspects of research in evolutionary biology, using biological theories of (...)
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  20. Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (2013). Prove It! The Burden of Proof Game in Science Vs. Pseudoscience Disputes. Philosophia:1-16.
    The concept of burden of proof is used in a wide range of discourses, from philosophy to law, science, skepticism, and even in everyday reasoning. This paper provides an analysis of the proper deployment of burden of proof, focusing in particular on skeptical discussions of pseudoscience and the paranormal, where burden of proof assignments are most poignant and relatively clear-cut. We argue that burden of proof is often misapplied or used as a mere rhetorical gambit, with little appreciation of the (...)
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  21. Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (eds.) (2013). Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University of Chicago Press.
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  22. Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (2013). Why the Demarcation Problem Matters. In Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem.
    Ever since Socrates, philosophers have been in the business of asking ques- tions of the type “What is X?” The point has not always been to actually find out what X is, but rather to explore how we think about X, to bring up to the surface wrong ways of thinking about it, and hopefully in the process to achieve an increasingly better understanding of the matter at hand. In the early part of the twentieth century one of the most (...)
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  23. Massimo Pigliucci, Kim Sterelny & Werner Callebaut (2013). The Meaning of “Theory” in Biology. Biological Theory 7 (4):285-286.
  24. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life. Basic Books.
    How should we live? According to philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci, the greatest guidance to this essential question lies in combining the wisdom of 24 centuries of philosophy with the latest research from 21st century science. In Answers for Aristotle, Pigliucci argues that the combination of science and philosophy first pioneered by Aristotle offers us the best possible tool for understanding the world and ourselves. As Aristotle knew, each mode of thought has the power to clarify the other: science provides (...)
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  25. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Biology and Ideology: From Descartes to Dawkins. [REVIEW] Science and Education 15 (1).
    Science has always strived for objectivity, for a ‘‘view from nowhere’’ that is not marred by ideology or personal preferences. That is a lofty ideal toward which perhaps it makes sense to strive, but it is hardly the reality. This collection of thirteen essays assembled by Denis R. Alexander and Ronald L. Numbers ought to give much pause to scientists and the public at large, though historians, sociologists and philosophers of science will hardly be surprised by the material covered here.
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  26. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Biology's Last Paradigm Shift. The Transition From Natural Theology to Darwinism. Paradigmi 2012 (3):45-58.
    The theory of evolution, which provides the conceptual framework for all modern research in organismal biology and informs research in molecular bi- ology, has gone through several stages of expansion and refinement. Darwin and Wallace (1858) of course proposed the original idea, centering on the twin concepts of natural selection and common descent. Shortly thereafter, Wallace and August Weismann worked toward the complete elimination of any Lamarckian vestiges from the theory, leaning in particular on Weismann’s (1893) concept of the separation (...)
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  27. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Doctor Who and Philosophy. [REVIEW] Philosophy Now 89 (Mar/Apr):43-44.
    The good Doctor has a lot to say about philosophy.
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  28. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Is Science All You Need? [REVIEW] The Philosophers' Magazine 57 (2nd Quarter):111-112.
    Why Rosenberg's bland of nihilistic atheism is problematic.
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  29. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Landscapes, Surfaces, and Morphospaces: What Are They Good For? In E. Svensson & R. Calsbeek (eds.), The Adaptive Landscape in Evolutionary Biology.
    Few metaphors in biology are more enduring than the idea of Adaptive Landscapes, originally proposed by Sewall Wright (1932) as a way to visually present to an audience of typically non- mathematically savvy biologists his ideas about the relative role of natural selection and genetic drift in the course of evolution. The metaphor, how- ever, was born troubled, not the least reason for which is the fact that Wright presented different diagrams in his original paper that simply can- not refer (...)
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  30. Massimo Pigliucci, Nonsense on Stilts About Science: Field Adventures of a Scientist- Philosopher. Between Scientists and Citizens.
    Public discussions of science are often marred by two pernicious phenomena: a widespread rejection of scientific findings (e.g., the reality of anthropogenic climate change, the conclusion that vaccines do not cause autism, or the validity of evolutionary theory), coupled with an equally common acceptance of pseudoscientific notions (e.g., homeopathy, psychic readings, telepathy, tall tales about alien abductions, and so forth). The typical reaction by scientists and science educators is to decry the sorry state of science literacy among the general public, (...)
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  31. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). On the Different Ways of ‘‘Doing Theory’’ in Biology. Biological Theory 7 (4):DOI 10.1007/s13752-012-0047-1.
    ‘‘Theoretical biology’’ is a surprisingly heter- ogeneous field, partly because it encompasses ‘‘doing the- ory’’ across disciplines as diverse as molecular biology, systematics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Moreover, it is done in a stunning variety of different ways, using anything from formal analytical models to computer sim- ulations, from graphic representations to verbal arguments. In this essay I survey a number of aspects of what it means to do theoretical biology, and how they compare with the allegedly much more restricted (...)
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  32. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Philosophical Reflections on Darwin and Evolutionary Theory. [REVIEW] Trends in Ecology and Evolution 27 (5):258.
    Few scientists are conscious of the distinc- tion between the logic of what they write and the rhetoric of how they write it. This is because we are taught to write scientific papers and books from a third-person per- spective, using as impersonal (and, almost inevitably, boring [1]) a style as possible. The first chapter in Elliott Sober’s new book examines the difference between Darwin’s logic and his rhetoric in The Origin, and manages to teach some interesting and in- sightful (...)
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  33. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Reflective Quilibrium. Philosophy Now 88 (Jan/Feb):27-27.
    A quick look at the concept of reflective equilibrium in philosophy.
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  34. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Science Needs Philosophy. Australian Humanist, The 108 (108):16.
    Pigliucci, Massimo A recent New York Times article has noted a new trend in secular writings, what the author, James Atlas, termed 'Can't-Help-Yourself books'. This trend includes writings by prominent scientists and secularists that are characterised by two fundamental - and equally misguided - ideas: an over-enthusiastic embrace of science, and the dismissal of much of human experience under the generic label of 'illusion'.
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  35. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Sherlock's Reasoning Toolbox. In Philip Tallon & David Baggett (eds.), The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes. University Press of Kentucky.
  36. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, by Alex Rosenberg (WW Norton & Co) $25.95/£ 17.99. The Philosophers' Magazine 57:111-112.
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  37. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Testing My Own Morality. Philosophy Now 91 (Jul/Aug):41-41.
    Apparently, I’m a righteous son of a bitch, morally speaking. At least that’s the conclusion I would have to reach if I trusted the results of a morality test I took at the BBC website (bbc.co.uk/labuk/experiments/morality). The test was devised to collect data for a “new theory” that seeks to make sense of human morality in terms of a super-organism concept. Briefly, the idea is that “we, as individuals, behave as if we are part of a bigger ‘superorganism’ when we (...)
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  38. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). The One Paradigm to Rule Them All. In D. A. Kowalski (ed.), The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy.
    A humorous treatment of scientism within the context of the television series, The Big Bang Theory.
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  39. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). The Really, Really Big Question. The Philosophers' Magazine 59 (4thQ):111-112.
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  40. Massimo Pigliucci (2012). Who Knows What - The War Between Science and the Humanities. Aeon.
    Whenever we try to make an inventory of humankind’s store of knowledge, we stumble into an ongoing battle between what CP Snow called ‘the two cultures’. On one side are the humanities, on the other are the sciences (natural and physical), with social science and philosophy caught somewhere in the middle. This is more than a turf dispute among academics. It strikes at the core of what we mean by human knowledge.
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  41. Gerd Muller & Massimo Pigliucci (2011). Extended Synthesis: Theory Expansion or Alternative? Biological Theory 5 (3):275-276.
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  42. Massimo Pigliucci (2011). Mathematical Platonism. Philosophy Now 84:47-47.
    Are numbers and other mathematical objects "out there" in some philosophically meaningful sense?
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  43. Massimo Pigliucci & Maarten Boudry (2011). Why Machine-Information Metaphors Are Bad for Science and Science Education. Science and Education 20 (453):471.
    Genes are often described by biologists using metaphors derived from computa- tional science: they are thought of as carriers of information, as being the equivalent of ‘‘blueprints’’ for the construction of organisms. Likewise, cells are often characterized as ‘‘factories’’ and organisms themselves become analogous to machines. Accordingly, when the human genome project was initially announced, the promise was that we would soon know how a human being is made, just as we know how to make airplanes and buildings. Impor- tantly, (...)
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  44. Gerd B. Müüller & Massimo Pigliucci (2010). Lindsay Craig-–The So-Called Extended Synthesis and Population Genetics. Biological Theory 5 (3):275-276.
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  45. Massimo Pigliucci (2010). A Misguided Attack on Evolution. [REVIEW] Nature 464:353-354.
    Why Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini are wrong about Darwin and evolution.
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  46. Massimo Pigliucci (ed.) (2010). Foreword to Julian Huxley's "Evolution: The Modern Synthesis&Quot;. MIT Press.
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  47. Massimo Pigliucci (2010). Genotype–Phenotype Mapping and the End of the ‘Genes as Blueprint’ Metaphor. Philosophical Transactions Royal Society B 365:557–566.
    In a now classic paper published in 1991, Alberch introduced the concept of genotype–phenotype (G!P) mapping to provide a framework for a more sophisticated discussion of the integration between genetics and developmental biology that was then available. The advent of evo-devo first and of the genomic era later would seem to have superseded talk of transitions in phenotypic space and the like, central to Alberch’s approach. On the contrary, this paper shows that recent empirical and theoretical advances have only sharpened (...)
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  48. Massimo Pigliucci (2010). Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk. University of Chicago Press.
    Introduction : science versus pseudoscience and the "demarcation problem" -- Hard science, soft science -- Almost science -- Pseudoscience -- Blame the media? -- Debates on science : the rise of think tanks and the decline of public intellectuals -- Science and politics : the case of global warming -- Science in the courtroom : the case against intelligent design -- From superstition to natural philosophy -- From natural philosophy to modern science -- The science wars I : do we (...)
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  49. Massimo Pigliucci (2010). Okasha's Evolution and the Levels of Selection: Toward a Broader Conception of Theoretical Biology. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 25 (3):405-415.
    The debate about the levels of selection has been one of the most controversial both in evolutionary biology and in philosophy of science. Okasha’s book makes the sort of contribution that simply will not be able to be ignored by anyone interested in this field for many years to come. However, my interest here is in highlighting some examples of how Okasha goes about discussing his material to suggest that his book is part of an increasingly interesting trend that sees (...)
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