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Aaron Novick
University of Washington
  1. Presume It Not: True Causes in the Search for the Basis of Heredity.Aaron Novick & Raphael Scholl - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (1):axy001.
    Kyle Stanford has recently given substance to the problem of unconceived alternatives, which challenges the reliability of inference to the best explanation (IBE) in remote domains of nature. Conjoined with the view that IBE is the central inferential tool at our disposal in investigating these domains, the problem of unconceived alternatives leads to scientific anti-realism. We argue that, at least within the biological community, scientists are now and have long been aware of the dangers of IBE. We re-analyze the nineteenth-century (...)
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  2.  26
    The Fine Structure of ‘Homology’.Aaron Novick - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (1-2):6.
    There is long-standing conflict between genealogical and developmental accounts of homology. This paper provides a general framework that shows that these accounts are compatible and clarifies precisely how they are related. According to this framework, understanding homology requires both an abstract genealogical account that unifies the application of the term to all types of characters used in phylogenetic systematics and locally enriched accounts that apply only to specific types of characters. The genealogical account serves this unifying role by relying on (...)
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  3.  76
    Metaphysics and the Vera Causa Ideal: The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.Aaron Novick - 2017 - Erkenntnis 82 (5):1161-1176.
    L.A. Paul has recently defended the methodology of metaphysics on the grounds that it is continuous with the sciences. She claims that both scientists and metaphysicians use inference to the best explanation to choose between competing theories, and that the success of science vindicates the use of IBE in metaphysics. Specifically, the success of science shows that the theoretical virtues are truth-conducive. I challenge Paul’s claims on two grounds. First, I argue that, at least in biology, scientists adhere to the (...)
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  4.  21
    Cuvierian Functionalism.Aaron Novick - 2019 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11.
    This paper makes the case that evolutionary-developmental biology, in explaining the deep conservation of animal body plans, relies on a Cuvierian functionalist explanatory strategy. Philosophical analysis commonly treats evo-devo as a “typological” research program, in contrast to the population thinking that undergirds population-genetic approaches to evolutionary theorizing. The central aim of this paper is to show that many of the features that have led evo-devo to be treated as typological are in fact the product of its Cuvierian functionalism. To achieve (...)
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  5.  11
    On the Origins of the Quinarian System of Classification.Aaron Novick - 2016 - Journal of the History of Biology 49 (1):95-133.
    William Sharp Macleay developed the quinarian system of classification in his Horæ Entomologicæ, published in two parts in 1819 and 1821. For two decades, the quinarian system was widely discussed in Britain and influenced such naturalists as Charles Darwin, Richard Owen, and Thomas Huxley. This paper offers the first detailed account of Macleay’s development of the quinarian system. Macleay developed his system under the shaping influence of two pressures: (1) the insistence by followers of Linnaeus on developing artificial systems at (...)
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  6.  18
    A Reappraisal of Charles Darwin’s Engagement with the Work of William Sharp Macleay.Aaron Novick - 2019 - Journal of the History of Biology 52 (2):245-270.
    Charles Darwin, in his species notebooks, engaged seriously with the quinarian system of William Sharp Macleay. Much of the attention given to this engagement has focused on Darwin’s attempt to explain, in a transmutationist framework, the intricate patterns that characterized the quinarian system. Here, I show that Darwin’s attempt to explain these quinarian patterns primarily occurred before he had read any work by Macleay. By the time Darwin began reading Macleay’s writings, he had already arrived at a skeptical view of (...)
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  7.  3
    Kon-Tiki Experiments.Aaron Novick, Adrian M. Currie, Eden W. McQueen & Nathan L. Brouwer - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (2):213-236.
    We identify a species of experiment—Kon-Tiki experiments—used to demonstrate the competence of a cause to produce a certain effect, and we examine their role in the historical sciences. We argue that Kon-Tiki experiments are used to test middle-range theory, to test assumptions within historical narratives, and to open new avenues of inquiry. We show how the results of Kon-Tiki experiments are involved in projective inferences, and we argue that reliance on projective inferences does not provide historical scientists with any special (...)
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  8.  31
    How Microbes "Jeopardize" the Modern Synthesis.Aaron Novick & W. Ford Doolittle - 2019 - PLOS Genetics 5 (15):e1008166.
    This editorial introduces a series of review articles concerning the ways in which recent work on microbial evolution has both deepened and challenged the modern synthesis. The authors develop a framework for thinking about theory change in biology.
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  9.  17
    Horizontal Persistence and the Complexity Hypothesis.Aaron Novick & W. Ford Doolittle - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (1):1-22.
    This paper investigates the complexity hypothesis in microbial evolutionary genetics from a philosophical vantage. This hypothesis, in its current version, states that genes with high connectivity are likely to be resistant to being horizontally transferred. We defend four claims. There is an important distinction between two different ways in which a gene family can persist: vertically and horizontally. There is a trade-off between these two modes of persistence, such that a gene better at achieving one will be worse at achieving (...)
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    Horizontal Persistence and the Complexity Hypothesis.Aaron Novick & W. Ford Doolittle - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (1):2.
    This paper investigates the complexity hypothesis in microbial evolutionary genetics from a philosophical vantage. This hypothesis, in its current version, states that genes with high connectivity are likely to be resistant to being horizontally transferred. We defend four claims. There is an important distinction between two different ways in which a gene family can persist: vertically and horizontally. There is a trade-off between these two modes of persistence, such that a gene better at achieving one will be worse at achieving (...)
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  11.  14
    ‘Species’ Without Species.Aaron Novick & W. Ford Doolittle - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 87:72-80.
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