Many authors have argued that the core of evolutionary biology as represented by the catchphrase 'The fittest survive' is tautological. Concerning the fitness concept of population genetics it is easy to rebut this charge by a proper explication of the term 'survival'. In biology and in the philosophy of biology, various fitness concepts over and above that of population genetics have been elaborated. These concepts, which are called 'supervenient' by some philosophers, have a limited usefulness. On some interpretations they do (...) lead to unacceptable tautologies and circular reasoning. The so-called propensity concept of fitness is problematic in this respect. If interpreted in a proper way, supervenient concepts appear not to allow the formulation of highly general explanations and theories; at best they reveal common patterns among diverse non-general explanations and theories. Philosophers cherishing supervenient fitness concepts are apparently motivated by a mistaken search for general theory. The fitness concept of population genetics may play a role in relatively general theories and explanations. Supervenient concepts cannot play such a role. They should rather help us recognize the value of natural history in biology. (shrink)
Science is not value-free and ethics is not fact-free. Science and ethics should be similar, but they are not. The author indicates how research in ethics is to change in the face of this. Ethicists should accommodate empirical work in their programs and they should take heed of methodologies developed in science and philosophy of science. They should abandon the search for a single overarching theory of morality. Controversies in ethics are often spurious for lack of articulate methodological key concepts. (...) For example, disagreements over the value of general theories are misguided since disputants implicitly use different notions of generality and different notions of theory. An appropriate methodology does not suffice for the resolution of controversies but it is indispensable for consensus. The book argues these theses in a general way and applies them to the subject of egoism and altruism in ethics. Further case studies concern the environment and psychiatric disorders. (shrink)
It seems that actions are perceived from two different perspectives: on the one hand by the agent of the action and on the other hand by the observer. The latter perspective appears to be more reliable because of inter-subjective observations. Hence, determinists argue that actions can be causally explained by events, whereas the indeterminists claim that actions are acausal events. If e.g. Mary opens the door, we observe her behaviour but not her action; for it is not clear to us (...) from our observations whether she intends to open the door, whether she opens the door unconsciously or whether she opens the door only accidentally when sleepwalking. Since actions do not consist in events, their observations involve behaviouristic fallacy. Consequently, deterministic as well as indeterministic arguments prove to be untenable. Since only the first perspective, i.e. that of the agent, remains, it is necessary to refer to the reports about their actions and to our observations of their behaviour when explicating the concept of action. This enables us to clarify the question of how far human beings are free to do, or not to do, what they want. (shrink)
Een belangrijke en steeds terugkerende vraag in de geschiedenis van het wijsgerig denken met betrekking tot het probleem van het universele en individuele is: hoe is het mogelijk dat in een wereld van individuele dingen gezegd kan worden dat de dingen uniek zijn en nochtans gelijkenis met elkaar vertonen en dus kennelijk niet volstrekt uniek zijn. Hoe kunnen we één en dezelfde eigenschap toeschrijven aan onderscheiden dingen. Of zoals door sommigen bij voorkeur geformuleerd: Hoe kunnen we één en hetzelfde prediceren (...) van vele onderscheiden dingen. Sommigen menen dat dit naast het accepteren van particularia ons noopt te spreken over universalia. Naast het spreken over individuele mensen, paarden, bomen, stenen, rode dingen enz. bestaat er ook iets universeels, zoals mens-zijn, paard-zijn, boom-zijn, steen-zijn, roodheid enz., kortom datgene wat mensen, paarden, bomen, stenen, rode dingen enz. gemeenschappelijk hebben. De realisten zeggen, ondanks alle verschillen, dat universalia niet gereduceerd, niet herleid kunnen worden, tot particularia. De nominalisten aanvaarden, ondanks alle verschillen, alleen individuele dingen in de werkelijkheid, terwijl het universele slechts bestaat in de menselijke geest als woorden of als concepten. (shrink)
Summary Influenced by the account of K. Popper and, moreover, of C. G. Hempel and P. Oppenheim, it is generally assumed, that a prediction can be logically deduced from hypotheses, i. e. lawlike propositions, and initial conditions. It is not clear, in which respect a prediction can correctly be supposed to be a proposition which is either true or false. From a logical point of view, serious difficulties arise in assuming that the deductive-nomological model consists of a valid argument. Further (...) objections to this account are developed with regard to lawlike propositions. Since a lawlike proposition is â by definition â not true or definitely true, but only supposed to be true, it cannot function as a true premise among other true premises for the purpose of deduction. Special difficulties arise with regard to predictions: A predictive argument does not give any reason for the truth of the predictionK, but only â if at all â for the prediction of the truth ofK. In the latter case, the conclusion K clearly does not consist of a proposition (which could be either true or false) but rather of a predicting proposition. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that the following Rule should be part of any characterization of science: Claims concerning specific disputed facts should be endorsed only if they are sufficiently supported by the application of validated methods of research or discovery, and moreover that acceptance of this Rule should lead one to reject religious belief. This paper argues, first, that the Rule, as stated, should not be accepted as it suffers from a number of problems. And second, that even if (...) the Rule were to be acceptable, it should not lead one to reject religious belief. (shrink)
In this paper I respond to Wim van der Steen''s arguments against the supposed current overemphasis on norms ofcoherence andinterdisciplinary integration in biology. On the normative level, I argue that these aremiddle-range norms which, although they may be misapplied in short-term attempts to solve (temporarily?) intractable problems, play a guiding role in the longer-term treatment of biological problems. This stance is supported by a case study of apartial success story, the development of the one gene — one enzyme hypothesis. (...) As that case shows, thegoal of coherent interdisciplinary integration not only provides guidance for research, but also provides the standard for recognizingfailed integrations of the sort that van der Steen criticizes. (shrink)
Philosophy of medicine and its daughter bioethics seldom undertake a critical analysis of live medical science. That is a serious shortcoming since some forms of bias in medical science have a negative impact on health care. Most notably, many areas of medicine focus on a restricted area of biology to the exclusion of ecology. Ecological thinking should lead to fundamental changes in medicine and the philosophy of medicine.
Evolutionary psychology is put forward by its defenders as an extension of evolutionary biology, bringing psychology within the integrated causal chain of the hard sciences. It is extolled as a new paradigm for integrating psychology with the rest of science. We argue that such claims misrepresent the methods and explanations of evolutionary biology, and present a distorted view of the consequences that might be drawn from evolutionary biology for views of human nature. General theses about adaptation in biology are empty (...) schemata, not laws of nature allowing the subsumption of mind under biology. Functional thinking is an indispensable tool for psychology, mostly of value in abstractive unification and as a heuristic, but it gains little from association with evolutionary notions of selection. Thus, we argue, the cherished integrative causal model evaporates, and evolutionary phraseology serves no more than rhetorical purposes. Moreover, the universality of human nature and the evolutionary irrelevance of individual variation are presented as biological truths that psychologists should respect in their approach to mind. On closer inspection, this turns out to be rather dubious biology. Psychology might conceivably be better off as a continuation of biology by different means, but evolutionary psychology does not provide the conceptual integration leading to such a happy union. (shrink)
Is human behavior exclusively motivated by self-interest? Common sense indicates that we should flatly deny this, or so it seems to me. Yet the doctrine of universal self-interest, psychological egoism for short, has gained the support of many researchers in science. Common sense also seems to allow the rejection of ethical egoism, the doctrine that human behavior should be motivated exclusively by self-interest. It appears to be at variance with widely endorsed moralities. Yet it is a perennial subject of research (...) in ethics. What stance should we take in the face of these discrepancies? Two views suggest themselves. Commonsensical views of egoism and altruism are flawed or research on the subject in science and ethics is misguided. Considering ethics I argue in this article that research is misguided to the extent that it is conducted at inappropriately high levels of generality. I argue that both ethical egoism and psychological egoism are mistaken. (shrink)
Philosophical theories about reduction and integration in science are at variance with what is happenign in science. A realistic approach to science show that possibilities for reduction and integration are limited. The classical ideal of a unified science has since long been rejected in philosophy. But the current emphasis on interdisciplinary integration in philosophy and in science shows that it survives in a different guise. It is necessary to redress the balance, specifically in biology. Methodological analysis shows that many of (...) the grand interdisciplinary theories involving biology actually represent pseudo-integration covered up by inappropriate, overgeneral concepts. Integrationism is not bad, but it must be kept within reasonable bounds. If the present analysis is appropriate, there will have to be fundamental changes in research strategy both in science and in the philosophy of science. (shrink)
Overmedication is nowadays a serious problem in health care due to influences from the pharmaceutical industry and agencies responsible for regulation. The situation has indeed become appalling in psychiatry, where both theories and treatments have deteriorated under the impact of the industry. The overmedication problem is associated with biased biology in medicine. Adequate biological approaches would indicate that drug therapies must yield to diet therapies, particularly treatments involving omega-3 fatty acids, in many cases. To the extent that philosophy of science (...) adapts to mainstream medicine in analyses of the current situation, it may reinforce the existing bias. To redress imbalances in health care, we ultimately have to rely on common sense. (shrink)
Biology incorporated into other disciplines is often distorted, alarmingly so in some areas of medicine. Together with other forms of bias, this may have detrimental effects for patients depending on medical research for their health. A case study concerning omeprazole (Losec), one of the acid-suppressive drugs against gastric ulcers, and NSAIDs, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, confirms that distorted biology together with biased health care policies foster disasters in current biomedicine and medical practice. In our country, The Netherlands, omeprazole is presumably the (...) most commonly used medication. NSAIDs are also used in large quantities, increasingly since they have become available as analgesic over-the-counter drugs. Unofficial and official sources tend to inform the general public that the drugs promote human health. We argue that their being used on a massive scale is actually a medical disaster. The health of many patients would be served better if the drugs they take were replaced by proper forms of diet, but the pharmaceutical industry, the most potent force affecting medication policies, appears to prevent a shift in the balance from over-medicalization towards healthy life styles. The shift should come from government agencies responsible for regulation in the medication market. Policies of these agencies are now a dismal failure. (shrink)
Research in behaviour genetics uncovers causes of behaviour at the population level. For inferences about individuals we also need to know how genes and the environment affect phenotypes. Behaviour genetics fosters a biased view of individual behaviour since it identifies the environment with psychosocial factors and disregards ecology.
Grime in a recently developed theory distinguished three basic plant strategies: stress tolerance,ruderality and competition. He relates them to environments characterized in terms of stress and disturbance. Classifications of strategies and environments both are ultimately defined in terms of production. This tends to make the theory tautological. If the theory is to make sense, environments had better be defined in independent terms.
One of the major criticisms of optimal foraging theory is that it is not testable. In discussions of this criticism opposing parties have confused methodological concepts and used meaningless biological concepts. In this paper we discuss such misunderstandings and show that OFr has an empirically testable, and even well-confirmed, general core theory. One of our main conclusions is that specific model testing should not be aimed at ‘proving’ optimality, but rather at identifying the context in which certain types of behaviour (...) are optimal. To do this, it is necessary to be aware of the assumptions made in testing a model. The assumptions that are explicitly stated in the literature up to now do not completely cover the actual assumptions made in testing OFT models in practice. We present a more comprehensive set of assumptions. Although all the assumptions play a role in testing models, they are not of equal status. Crucial assumptions concern constraints and the relation between fitness and currency. Therefore, it is essential to make such assumptions testable in practice. We show that a more explicit relationship between OFT modelling and evolutionary theory can help with this. Specifically, phylogeny reconstruction and population dynamic modelling can and should be used to formulate assumptions concerning constraints and currencies. (shrink)
Introduction Families of patients with dementia may need support in difficult end-of-life decision making. Such guidance may be culturally sensitive. Methods To support families in Canada, a booklet was developed to aid decision making on palliative care issues. For reasons of cost effectiveness and promising effects, we prepared for its implementation in Italy, the Netherlands and Japan. Local teams translated and adapted the booklet to local ethical, legal and medical standards where needed, retaining guidance on palliative care. Using qualitative content (...) analyses, we grouped and compared adaptations to understand culturally sensitive aspects. Results Three themes emerged: (1) relationships among patient, physician and other professionals—the authority of the physician was more explicit in adapted versions; (2) patient rights and family position—adding detail about local regulations; and (3) typology of treatments and decisions. Considerations underlying palliative care decisions were detailed (Dutch and Italian versions), and the Japanese version frequently referred to professional and legal standards, and life-prolongation was a competing goal. Text on artificial feeding or fluids and euthanasia was revised extensively. Conclusions Providing artificial feeding and fluids and discussing euthanasia may be particularly sensitive topics, and guidance on these subjects needs careful consideration of ethical aspects and possible adaptations to local standards and practice. The findings may promote cross-national debate on sensitive, core issues regarding end-of-life care in dementia. (shrink)
Evolutionary ethics has recently become popular again. Some of its representatives elaborate new attempts to derive ethics from evolutionary biology. The attempts, like previous ones, fail because they commit the naturalistic fallacy. Premises from evolutionary biology together with normative premises also do not justify ethical principles. Other representatives argue that evolutionary considerations imply that ethics cannot be justified at all. Their arguments presuppose an unacceptable form of foundationalism. In principle, evolutionary biology might explain some aspects of morality, but in practice (...) explanations are hard to come by. All this does not imply that evolutionary theory is irrelevant in normative settings. To the contrary, it may help us devise guidelines in environmental policy and health care policy. It is to be hoped that evolutionary ethicists will divert their research efforts to the elaboration of such guidelines. (shrink)
Evolutionary epistemologists aim to explain the evolution of cognitive capacities underlying human knowledge and also the processes that generate knowledge, for example in science. There can be no doubt that our cognitive capacities are due in part to our evolutionary heritage. But this is an uninformative thesis. All features of organism have indeed been shaped by evolution. A substantive evolutionary explanation of cognition would have to provide details about the evolutionary processes involved. Evolutionary epistemology has not provided any details. Considering (...) progress of theorizing in science, evolutionary epistemologists have proposed many different analogies between natural selection and selection in science. As yet, the analogies have not been fruitful. The entire program of evolutionary epistemology is programmatic. Evolutionary epistemologists have also moved beyond explanation to justification, the primary issue in traditional epistemology. It turns out that their program presupposes that we can justify knowledge claims in traditional ways. Evolutionary biology is not a proper tool for the justification of beliefs. (shrink)
Various philosophers and evolutionary biologists have recently defended the thesis that species are individuals rather than sets. A decade of debates, however, did not suffice to settle the matter. Conceptual analysis shows that many of the key terms involved are ambiguous. Current disagreements should dissolve once this is recognized. Explication of the concepts involved leads to new programs for philosophical research. It could also help biology by showing how extant controversies concerning evolution may have conceptual rather than factual roots.
Peter Wenz has recently distinguished various forms of moral pluralism in an effort to dissolve the controversy over monism and pluralism. I argue that the distinctions are not really helpful once the methodology and the substance of science are brought to bear on ethics. Theories in ethics and science alike are subject to context-dependent methodological trade-offs. Hence, the category of theories should be heterogeneous. Monism and pluralism are at cross-purposes since they endorse different unanalyzed notions of theory. Awareness of heterogeneity (...) among theories is helpful in dismissing the controversy. (shrink)
Non-treatment decisions concerning demented patients are complex: in addition to issues concerning the health of patients, ethical and legal issues are involved. This paper describes a method for the development of a guideline that clarifies the steps to be taken in the decision making process whether to forgo curative treatment of pneumonia in psychogeriatric nursing home patients.The method of development consisted of seven steps. Step 1 was a literature study from which ethical, juridical and medical factors concerning the patient's health (...) and prognosis were identified. In step 2, a questionnaire was sent to 26 nursing home physicians to determine the relative importance of these factors in clinical practice. In a meeting of nine experienced physicians , the factors identified in step 2 were confirmed by most of these professionals. To prevent the final guideline being too directive, a concept guideline that included ethical and legal aspects was designed in the form of a “checklist of considerations” . Experts in the fields of nursing home medicine, ethics and law reviewed and commented on the concept guideline . The accordingly adapted “checklist of considerations” was tested in a pilot study , after which all experts endorsed the checklist .The resulting “checklist of considerations” structures the decision making process according to three primary domains: medical aspects, patient's autonomy, and patient's best interest. (shrink)