Evolutionarybiology and feminism share a variety of philosophical and practical concerns. I have tried to describe how a perspective from both evolutionarybiology and feminism can accelerate the achievement of goals for both feminists and evolutionary biologists. In an early section of this paper I discuss the importance of variation to the disciplines of evolutionarybiology and feminism. In the section entitled “Control of Female Reproduction” I demonstrate how insight provided by participation (...) in life as woman and also as a feminist suggests testable hypotheses about the evolution of social behavior—hypotheses that are applicable to our investigations of the evolution of social behavior in nonhuman animals. In the section on “Deceit, Self-deception, and Patriarchal Reversals” I have overtly conceded that evolutionarybiology, a scientific discipline, also represents a human cultural practice that, like other human cultural practices, may in parts and at times be characterized by deceit and self-deception. In the section on “Femininity” I have indicated how questions cast and answered and hypotheses tested from an evolutionary perspective can serve women and men struggling with sexist oppression. (shrink)
Evolution - both the fact that it occurred and the theory describing the mechanisms by which it occurred - is an intrinsic and central component in modern biology. Theodosius Dobzhansky captures this well in the much-quoted title of his 1973 paper 'Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution'. The correctness of this assertion is even more obvious today: philosophers of biology and biologists agree that the fact of evolution is undeniable and that the (...) theory of evolution explains that fact. Such a theory has far-reaching implications. In this volume, eleven distinguished scholars address the conceptual, metaphysical and epistemological richness of the theory and its ethical and religious impact, exploring topics including DNA barcoding, three grand challenges of human evolution, functionalism, historicity, design, evolution and development, and religion and secular humanism. The volume will be of great interest to those studying philosophy of biology and evolutionarybiology. (shrink)
In recent years, an increasing number of medical books and papers attempting to analyse the concepts of health and disease from the perspective of evolutionarybiology have been published.This paper introduces the evolutionary approach to health and disease in an attempt to illuminate the premisses and the framework of Darwinian medicine. My primary aim is to analyse to what extent evolutionary theory provides for a biological definition of the concept of disease. This analysis reveals some important (...) differences between functional explanations in the field of evolutionarybiology and functional explanations in the field of medicine. Moreover, I shall argue that the biological functions relevant to the health of an organism cannot be determined on the basis of evolutionary theory. Accordingly, it seems that Darwinian medicine does not provide for the definition of a biological concept of disease. Still,Darwinian medicine may suggest why we are susceptible to certain diseases; it might also prove a suggestive heuristic on the basis of which new hypotheses concerning relevant treatments of various diseases might be advanced. (shrink)
Evolutionary theory is undergoing an intense period of discussion and reevaluation. This, contrary to the misleading claims of creationists and other pseudoscientists, is no harbinger of a crisis but rather the opposite: the field is expanding dramatically in terms of both empirical discoveries and new ideas. In this essay I briefly trace the conceptual history of evolutionary theory from Darwinism to neo-Darwinism, and from the Modern Synthesis to what I refer to as the Extended Synthesis, a more inclusive (...) conceptual framework containing among others evo–devo, an expanded theory of heredity, elements of complexity theory, ideas about evolvability, and a reevaluation of levels of selection. I argue that evolutionarybiology has never seen a paradigm shift, in the philosophical sense of the term, except when it moved from natural theology to empirical science in the middle of the 19th century. The Extended Synthesis, accordingly, is an expansion of the Modern Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s, and one that—like its predecessor—will probably take decades to complete. (shrink)
Human propensities that are the products of Darwinian evolution may combine to generate a form of social behavior that is not itself a direct result of such pressure. This possibility may provide a satisfying explanation for the origin of socially transmitted rules such as the incest taboo. Similarly, the regulatory processes of development that generated adaptations to the environment in the circumstances in which they evolved can produce surprising and sometimes maladaptive consequences for the individual in modern conditions. These combinatorial (...) aspects of social and developmental dynamics leave a subtle but not wholly uninteresting role for evolutionarybiology in explaining the origins of human morality. (shrink)
The increasing place of evolutionary scenarios in functional biology is one of the major indicators of the present encounter between evolutionarybiology and functional biology (such as physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology), the two branches of biology which remained separated throughout the twentieth century. Evolutionary scenarios were not absent from functional biology, but their places were limited, and they did not generate research programs. I compare two examples of these past scenarios (...) with two present-day ones. At least three characteristics distinguish present and past efforts: An excellent description of the systems under study, a rigorous use of the evolutionary models, and the possibility to experimentally test the evolutionary scenarios. These three criteria allow us to distinguish the domains in which the encounter is likely to be fruitful, and those where the obstacles to be overcome are high and in which the proposed scenarios have to be considered with considerable circumspection. (shrink)
A fundamental philosophical question that arises in connection with evolutionary theory is whether the fittest patterns of behavior are always the most rational. Are fitness and rationality fully compatible? When behavioral rationality is characterized formally as in classical decision theory, the question becomes mathematically meaningful and can be explored systematically by investigating whether the optimally fit behavior predicted by evolutionary process models is decision-theoretically coherent. Upon investigation, it appears that in nontrivial evolutionary models the expected behavior is (...) not always in accord with the norms of the standard theory of decision as ordinarily applied. Many classically irrational acts, e.g. betting on the occurrence of one event in the knowledge that the probabilities favor another, can under certain circumstances constitute adaptive behavior.One interesting interpretation of this clash is that the criterion of rationality offered by classical decision theory is simply incorrect (or at least incomplete) as it stands, and that evolutionary theory should be called upon to provide a more generally applicable theory of rationality. Such a program, should it prove feasible, would amount to the logical reduction of the theory of rational choice to evolutionary theory. (shrink)
It is usually maintained by biologists and philosophers alike that essentialism is incompatible with evolutionarybiology, and that abandoning essentialism was a precondition of progress being made in the biological sciences. These claims pose a problem for anyone familiar with both evolutionarybiology and current metaphysics. Very few current scientific theories enjoy the prestige of evolutionarybiology. But essentialism – long in the bad books amongst both biologists and philosophers – has been enjoying a (...) strong resurgence of late amongst analytical philosophers with a taste for metaphysics. Indeed, to impartial observers it is likely to appear that both evolutionarybiology and essentialism are as well supported in their respective domains as could reasonably be expected. There is thus at least a prima facie tension here between evolutionarybiology, metaphysics and, as we shall see, pre-theoretical common sense. (shrink)
In this essay, we discuss Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka’s The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul from an interdisciplinary perspective. Constituting perhaps the longest treatise on the evolution of consciousness, Ginsburg and Jablonka unite their expertise in neuroscience and biology to develop a beautifully Darwinian account of the dawning of subjective experience. Though it would be impossible to cover all its content in a short book review, here we provide a critical evaluation of their two key ideas—the role of (...) Unlimited Associative Learning in the evolution of, and detection of, consciousness and a metaphysical claim about consciousness as a mode of being—in a manner that will hopefully overcome some of the initial resistance of potential readers to tackle a book of this length. (shrink)
Evolutionarybiology – or, more precisely, two (purported) applications of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, namely, evolutionary psychology and what has been called human behavioral biology – is on the cusp of becoming the new rage among legal scholars looking for interdisciplinary insights into the law. We argue that as the actual science stands today, evolutionarybiology offers nothing to help with questions about legal regulation of behavior. Only systematic misrepresentations or lack (...) of understanding of the relevant biology, together with far-reaching analytical and philosophical confusions, have led anyone to think otherwise. Evolutionary accounts are etiological accounts of how a trait evolved. We argue that an account of causal etiology could be relevant to law if (1) the account of causal etiology is scientifically well-confirmed, and (2) there is an explanation of how the well-confirmed etiology bears on questions of development (what we call the Environmental Gap Objection). We then show that the accounts of causal etiology that might be relevant are not remotely well-confirmed by scientific standards. We argue, in particular, that (a) evolutionary psychology is not entitled to assume selectionist accounts of human behaviors, (b) the assumptions necessary for the selectionist accounts to be true are not warranted by standard criteria for theory choice, and (c) only confusions about levels of explanation of human behavior create the appearance that understanding the biology of behavior is important. We also note that no response to the Environmental Gap Objection has been proffered. In the concluding section of the article, we turn directly to the work of Owen Jones, a leading proponent of the relevance of evolutionarybiology to law, and show that he does not come to terms with any of the fundamental problems identified in this article. (shrink)
Research in ecology and evolutionarybiology (evo-eco) often tries to emulate the “hard” sciences such as physics and chemistry, but to many of its practitioners feels more like the “soft” sciences of psychology and sociology. I argue that this schizophrenic attitude is the result of lack of appreciation of the full consequences of the peculiarity of the evo-eco sciences as lying in between a-historical disciplines such as physics and completely historical ones as like paleontology. Furthermore, evo-eco researchers have (...) gotten stuck on mathematically appealing but philosophi- cally simplistic concepts such as null hypotheses and p-values defined according to the frequentist approach in statistics, with the consequence of having been unable to fully embrace the complexity and subtlety of the problems with which ecologists and evolutionary biologists deal with. I review and discuss some literature in ecology, philosophy of science and psychology to show that a more critical methodological attitude can be liberating for the evo-eco scientist and can lead to a more fecund and enjoyable practice of ecology and evolutionarybiology. With this aim, I briefly cover concepts such as the method of multiple hypotheses, Bayesian analysis, and strong inference. (shrink)
Robert Brandon is one of the most important and influential of contemporary philosophers of biology. This collection of his recent essays covers all the traditional topics in the philosophy of evolutionarybiology and as such could serve as an introduction to the field. There are essays on the nature of fitness, teleology, the structure of the theory of natural selection, and the levels of selection. The book also deals with newer topics that are less frequently discussed but (...) are of growing interest, for example the evolution of human language and the role of experimentation in evolutionarybiology. A special feature of the collection is that it avoids jargon and is written in a style that will appeal to working evolutionary biologists as well as philosophers. (shrink)
" Because characters and the conception of characters are central to all studies of evolution, and because evolution is the central organizing principle of biology, this book will appeal to a wide cross-section of biologists.
A common worry about the genetic engineering of human beings is that it will reduce human genetic diversity, creating a biological monoculture that could not only increase our susceptibility to disease but also hasten the extinction of our species. Thus far, however, the evolutionary implications of human genetic modification remain largely unexplored. In this paper, I consider whether the widespread use of genetic engineering technology is likely to narrow the present range of genetic variation, and if so, whether this (...) would in fact lead to the evolutionary harms that some authors envision. By examining the nature of biological variation and its relation to population immunity and evolvability, I show that not only will genetic engineering have a negligible impact on human genetic diversity, but also that it will be more likely to ensure rather than undermine the health and longevity of the human species. (shrink)
Traces scholarly thought from the nineteenth-century birth of evolutionarybiology to the mapping of the human genome through forty-eight essays, arranged in chronological order, each preceded by a one-page essay that explains the significance of the chosen work.
Traces scholarly thought from the nineteenth-century birth of evolutionarybiology to the mapping of the human genome through forty-eight essays, arranged in chronological order, each preceded by a one-page essay that explains the significance of the chosen work.
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 has a long history, dating all the way back to Darwin, and it is in great part rooted in the fundamental dichotomy between what French biologist and Nobel laureate Jacques Monod (1971) called chance and necessity—i.e., the inevitable and inextricable interplay of deterministic and stochastic mechanisms operating during the course of evolution. (shrink)
Recent theorists have suggested that human altruism toward non-family members evolved because of the tremendous benefits of reciprocity. Developing further the notion that evolutionary theory can help to explain moral sentiments, Howard Kahane proposes that a sense of fair play is essential to ethics and argues that moral obligation, too narrowly construed, prevents us from living rationally. He brings his account of fair play to bear on the ethics of various domains of social life including friendship, taxes, civil rights, (...) and nation states. (shrink)
As a number of biologists and philosophers have emphasized, ‘chance’ has multiple meanings in evolutionarybiology. Seven have been identified. I will argue that there is a unified concept of chance underlying these seven, which I call the UCC (Unified Chance Concept). I will argue that each is characterized by which causes are consid- ered, ignored, or prohibited. Thus, chance in evolutionarybiology can only be under- stood through understanding the causes at work. The UCC aids (...) in comparing the different concepts and allows us to characterize our concepts of chance in probabilistic terms, i.e. provides a way to translate between ‘chance’ and ‘probability’. (shrink)
"Provine's thorough and thoroughly admirable examination of Wright's life and influence, which is accompanied by a very useful collection of Wright's papers on evolution, is the best we have for any recent figure in evolutionarybiology."—Joe Felsenstein, Nature "In Sewall Wright and EvolutionaryBiology... Provine has produced an intellectual biography which serves to chart in considerable detail both the life and work of one man and the history of evolutionary theory in the middle half of (...) this century. Provine is admirably suited to his task.... The resulting book is clearly a labour of love which will be of great interest to those who have a mature interest in the history of evolutionary theory."-John Durant, ;ITimes Higher Education Supplement;X. (shrink)
On the one hand, much has been written on Theodosius Dobzhansky’s central role in the development of the field of population genetics and modern evolutionary theory, as well as on his sociopolitical worldview in the middle of the Twentieth Century. On the other hand, much has also been written on Dobzhansky’s role in the institutionalization of genetics in Brazil, where he spent a considerable amount of time. Unfortunately, these literatures developed without any points of intersection or cross-reference. This article (...) places Dobzhansky’s work in Brazil in the broader contexts of the science and politics of its historical period. (shrink)
This article investigates whether there is an underlying morality in the ways that human beings seek to obtain economic security within our imperfect economy, which can be illuminated through evolutionarybiology research. Two research questions are the focus of the analysis: (1) What is the transaction cognitive machinery that is specialized for the entrepreneurial task of exchange-based security-seeking? and, (2) What are the moral implications of the acquisition and use of such transaction cognitions?Evolutionarybiology research suggests (...) within concepts that are more Darwin- v. Huxley-based, an underlying morality supportive of algorithm-governed economizing arising from the behaviors that are most worthy of long-term reproduction. Evolutionarily stable algorithm-enhanced security-seeking is argued to be a new view of entrepreneurship, but one that, somewhat ironically, is grounded in a primordially-based entrepreneurial morality that is at the core of economic security. (shrink)
The joke among scientists is that ‘philosopher’ is the last stage of one’s scien- tific career, to be arrived at when one can no longer get grants funded or graduate stu- dents to advise. Despite the fact that some of the greatest minds in evolutionarybiology (from Darwin to Ernst Mayr) were very much interested in the philosophical aspects of what they were doing, the bad joke persists in the halls of academia.
Much has been made of how Darwinian thinking destroyed proofs for the existence of God from ‘design’ in the universe. I challenge that prevailing view by looking closely at classical ‘teleological’ arguments for the existence of God. One version championed by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas stems from how chance is not a sufficient kind of ultimate explanation of the universe. In the course of constructing this argument, I argue that the classical understanding of teleology is no less necessary in modern (...) Darwinian biology than it was in Aristotle's time. In fact, modern biology strengthens the claims that teleological arguments make by vindicating many of their key features. As a consequence, I show how Aristotle and Aquinas' teleological argument for an intelligent First Cause remains valid. (shrink)
The ultimate source of explanation in biology is the principle of natural selection. Natural selection means differential reproduction of genes and gene combinations. It is a mechanistic process which accounts for the existence in living organisms of end-directed structures and processes. It is argued that teleological explanations in biology are not only acceptable but indeed indispensable. There are at least three categories of biological phenomena where teleological explanations are appropriate.
The present study asks the question whether Karl Rahner’s treatment of biological evolution holds merit for the dialogue between Catholic theology on the one hand and evolutionarybiology on the other. Central to this evaluation will be an emphasis on two core tenets of modern evolutionarybiology, namely emergence and the continuity of the evolutionary process. While the former bears relevance for our understanding of how life and anthropologically important phenomena such as “mind” and “consciousness” (...) came to be, the latter plays a crucial role in how we view our existence within the earth’s fluid and changing biosphere. It comes to the conclusion that Rahner’s concept of active self-transcendence recovers the notion of biological evolution as an on-going process where indeed something new emerges, and therefore offers an extremely helpful tool in the interdisciplinary conversation. However, this essay challenges Rahner’s understanding of the directedness of the evolutionary process toward the human being as well as his view that in us nature comes to self-consciousness for the first time and suggests alternatives. (shrink)
John Reiss is a practicing evolutionary biologist (herpetology) who by his own account happened to be in the right place (Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology) at the right time (the 1980s) to hear echoes of the debate about sociobiology that had been raging there between E. O. Wilson and, on the other side, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin (xiv). Reiss is not concerned with sociobiology, at least in this book, but with the adaptationism that Gould and Lewontin saw (...) in the sociobiologists’ approach to cooperative behavior. At Harvard, Reiss was guided by Pere Alberch, in whose laboratory Gould’s stress on developmental constraints was being transformed into a now influential version of the Evo-devo movement (xiv, 327). On Alberch’s view, which Reiss accepts, variation in the rate, timing, placement, and intensity of gene products during the ontogenetic process, rather than mutation in structural genes, constitutes the proximate source of the phenotypic variation on which natural election works (327-29). Reiss does not think that Evo-devo, at least as he construes it, does away with natural selection. Rather, he seeks to identify the role played by selection in retaining or eliminating the variation generated in the developmental process. Selection, he argues, enables organisms, populations, species, and other lineages to maintain the presumptively adapted conditions of existence to which their very persistence already testifies. “Adaptedness,” Reiss writes, “is not a product of evolution; it is a condition for evolution” (22). He thinks that this fact, as he takes it to be, belies the adaptationist assumption that organisms are collections of independently optimal adaptations that arise by way of concerted spurts of directional selection. “It is a mistake,” he writes, “to atomize organisms and to explain each part as the solution of a problem raised by the environment” (295). (shrink)
In The Resurgence of EvolutionaryBiology Terry Hoy charts the intersection between political theory and the intellectual debate over human evolution. The book deals with the contemporary interpretation of Darwinism as an apology for racism, imperialism, and capitalism. Hoy argues that this perspective underlies the contemporary debates between proponents of both genetic and environmental determinants of behavior. In response to several leading thinkers in the field—principally Edward Wilson, Stephen Gould and R. C. Lewontin—Hoy presents the neo-Darwinian synthesis of (...) Edwin Mayr as a mediation between these two schools of thought. This concise work is essential reading for scholars of political theory and philosophy, and anyone interested in seeking to understand the rise and fall—and rise again—of Darwinism and the contemporary political relevance of Aristotelian-Darwinian naturalism. (shrink)
The natural evolution of ethics is commonly understood in terms of the development from the selfish struggle to survive, via prudent cooperation, to altruism. However, cooperation that is prudent in the sense of serving basically selfish interests is not really altruistic. Besides, Christian ethics should not identify morality with absolutely disinterested altruism. Self-interest is only selfish when it is disproportionate or unfair; otherwise it is morally legitimate. Therefore the natural evolution of ethics is better understood as the gradual diversification of (...) the goods in which human beings have an interest. And evidently, whatever their origins, humans do have an interest in a range of goods, not just the preservation of their genes or their kin or themselves. Therefore the reductionist, Hobbesian assumptions about human motivation that game theory makes are empirically untrue of human behaviour in general, and so the range of cases to which it applies is accordingly narrow. Rather than using biology to interpret human motivation reductionistically, we should use zoology and anthropology to track the evolution of interest in diverse goods. The fact that eudaimonistic Christian ethics, as represented by Thomas Aquinas and Joseph Butler, has long recognised this diversity of human goods is one sign of its continuing explanatory power, and counts towards its truth. (shrink)
In this article our aim is to present some of the coordinates of the debate around common good. Starting by recognizing the importance of common good for the Christian worldview after the presence of it in St. Paul’s “the manifestation of Spirit is given for the common good”, we will present two ways of interpreting the development of our moral and emotional tendencies that have to do with two different evolutionary approaches. By the end of the article, we hope (...) to have established the argumental advantage of the cooperativist in front of the social Darwinist, opening the possibility for a possible interpretation of evolution as guided towards common good. (shrink)