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Adrian Currie [48]Adrian Mitchell Currie [4]Adrian M. Currie [1]
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Adrian Currie
Cambridge University
  1. Model Organisms Are Not (Theoretical) Models.Arnon Levy & Adrian Currie - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):327-348.
    Many biological investigations are organized around a small group of species, often referred to as ‘model organisms’, such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The terms ‘model’ and ‘modelling’ also occur in biology in association with mathematical and mechanistic theorizing, as in the Lotka–Volterra model of predator-prey dynamics. What is the relation between theoretical models and model organisms? Are these models in the same sense? We offer an account on which the two practices are shown to have different epistemic characters. (...)
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  2.  39
    In Defence of Story-Telling.Adrian Currie & Kim Sterelny - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 62:14-21.
    We argue that narratives are central to the success of historical reconstruction. Narrative explanation involves tracing causal trajectories across time. The construction of narrative, then, often involves postulating relatively speculative causal connections between comparatively well-established events. But speculation is not always idle or harmful: it also aids in overcoming local underdetermination by forming scaffolds from which new evidence becomes relevant. Moreover, as our understanding of the past’s causal milieus become richer, the constraints on narrative plausibility become increasingly strict: a narrative’s (...)
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  3.  44
    Marsupial Lions and Methodological Omnivory: Function, Success and Reconstruction in Paleobiology.Adrian Currie - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (2):187-209.
    Historical scientists frequently face incomplete data, and lack direct experimental access to their targets. This has led some philosophers and scientists to be pessimistic about the epistemic potential of the historical sciences. And yet, historical science often produces plausible, sophisticated hypotheses. I explain this capacity to generate knowledge in the face of apparent evidential scarcity by examining recent work on Thylacoleo carnifex, the ‘marsupial lion’. Here, we see two important methodological features. First, historical scientists are methodological omnivores, that is, they (...)
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  4.  38
    From Things to Thinking: Cognitive Archaeology.Adrian Currie & Anton Killin - 2019 - Mind and Language 34 (2):263-279.
    Cognitive archaeologists infer from material remains to the cognitive features of past societies. We characterize cognitive archaeology in terms of trace-based reasoning, which in the case of cognitive archaeology involves inferences drawing upon background theory linking objects from the archaeological record to cognitive features. We analyse such practices, examining work on cognitive evolution, language, and musicality. We argue that the central epistemic challenge for cognitive archaeology is often not a paucity of material remains, but insufficient constraint from cognitive theories. However, (...)
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  5. Scientific Knowledge and the Deep Past: History Matters.Adrian Currie - 2019 - Cambridge University Press.
    Historical sciences like paleontology and archaeology have uncovered unimagined, remarkable and mysterious worlds in the deep past. How should we understand the success of these sciences? What is the relationship between knowledge and history? In Scientific Knowledge and the Deep Past: History Matters, Adrian Currie examines recent paleontological work on the great changes that occurred during the Cretaceous period - the emergence of flowering plants, the splitting of the mega-continent Gondwana, and the eventual fall of the dinosaurs - to analyse (...)
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  6.  34
    Method Pluralism, Method Mismatch, & Method Bias.Adrian Currie & Shahar Avin - 2019 - Philosophers' Imprint 19.
    Pluralism about scientific method is more-or-less accepted, but the consequences have yet to be drawn out. Scientists adopt different methods in response to different epistemic situations: depending on the system they are interested in, the resources at their disposal, and so forth. If it is right that different methods are appropriate in different situations, then mismatches between methods and situations are possible. This is most likely to occur due to method bias: when we prefer a particular kind of method, despite (...)
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  7.  67
    Narratives, Mechanisms and Progress in Historical Science.Adrian Mitchell Currie - 2014 - Synthese 191 (6):1-21.
    Geologists, Paleontologists and other historical scientists are frequently concerned with narrative explanations targeting single cases. I show that two distinct explanatory strategies are employed in narratives, simple and complex. A simple narrative has minimal causal detail and is embedded in a regularity, whereas a complex narrative is more detailed and not embedded. The distinction is illustrated through two case studies: the ‘snowball earth’ explanation of Neoproterozoic glaciation and recent attempts to explain gigantism in Sauropods. This distinction is revelatory of historical (...)
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  8.  31
    Newton on Islandworld: Ontic-Driven Explanations of Scientific Method.Adrian Currie & Kirsten Walsh - 2018 - Perspectives on Science 26 (1):119-156.
    As philosophers, we are often in the business of explaining scientific method. That is, we ask why such-and-such investigation was carried out as it was, what worked and what didn't, and why. Here, we introduce a framework for understanding "ontic-driven" responses to these kinds of questions. Explanations of method are ontic-driven when they appeal to properties of the systems under investigation. We shall use our framework to develop a fruitful and plausible hypothesis: that several methodological differences between Isaac Newton's two (...)
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  9.  53
    Hot-Blooded Gluttons: Dependency, Coherence, and Method in the Historical Sciences.Adrian Currie - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (4):929-952.
    Our epistemic access to the past is infamously patchy: historical information degrades and disappears and bygone eras are often beyond the reach of repeatable experiments. However, historical scientists have been remarkably successful at uncovering and explaining the past. I argue that part of this success is explained by the exploitation of dependencies between historical events, entities, and processes. For instance, if sauropod dinosaurs were hot blooded, they must have been gluttons; the high-energy demands of endothermy restrict sauropod grazing strategies. Understanding (...)
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  10.  75
    Introduction: Scientific Knowledge of the Deep Past.Adrian Currie & Derek Turner - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 55:43-46.
  11.  43
    Why Experiments Matter.Adrian Currie & Arnon Levy - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (9-10):1-25.
    Traditionally, experimentation is considered a privileged means of confirmation. However, how experiments are a better confirmatory source than other strategies is unclear, and recent discussions have identified experiments with various modeling strategies on the one hand, and with ‘natural’ experiments on the other hand. We argue that experiments aiming to test theories are best understood as controlled investigations of specimens. ‘Control’ involves repeated, fine-grained causal manipulation of focal properties. This capacity generates rich knowledge of the object investigated. ‘Specimenhood’ involves possessing (...)
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  12.  19
    Existential Risk, Creativity & Well-Adapted Science.Adrian Currie - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 76:39-48.
  13.  71
    Convergence as Evidence.Adrian Currie - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):763-786.
    The comparative method grants epistemic access to the biological past. Comparing lineages provides empirical traction on both hypotheses about particular lineages and models of trait evolution. Understanding this evidential role is important. Although philosophers have recently turned their attention to relations of descent, little work exists exploring the status of evidence from convergences. I argue that, where they exist, convergences play a central role in the confirmation of adaptive hypotheses. I focus on ‘analogous inferences’, show how such inferences ought to (...)
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  14.  35
    Simplicity, one-shot hypotheses and paleobiological explanation.Adrian Currie - 2019 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (1):10.
    Paleobiologists often provide simple narratives to explain complex, contingent episodes. These narratives are sometimes ‘one-shot hypotheses’ which are treated as being mutually exclusive with other possible explanations of the target episode, and are thus extended to accommodate as much about the episode as possible. I argue that a provisional preference for such hypotheses provides two kinds of productive scaffolding. First, they generate ‘hypothetical difference-makers’: one-shot hypotheses highlight and isolate empirically tractable dependencies between variables. Second, investigations of hypothetical difference-makers provision explanatory (...)
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  15.  17
    Existential Risk, Creativity & Well-Adapted Science.Adrian Currie - forthcoming - Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science.
  16.  27
    The Argument From Surprise.Adrian Currie - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (5):639-661.
    I develop an account of productive surprise as an epistemic virtue of scientific investigations which does not turn on psychology alone. On my account, a scientific investigation is potentially productively surprising when results can conflict with epistemic expectations, those expectations pertain to a wide set of subjects. I argue that there are two sources of such surprise in science. One source, often identified with experiments, involves bringing our theoretical ideas in contact with new empirical observations. Another, often identified with simulations, (...)
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  17.  27
    Bottled Understanding: The Role of Lab Work in Ecology.Adrian Currie - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (3):905-932.
    It is often thought that the vindication of experimental work lies in its capacity to be revelatory of natural systems. I challenge this idea by examining laboratory experiments in ecology. A central task of community ecology involves combining mathematical models and observational data to identify trophic interactions in natural systems. But many ecologists are also lab scientists: constructing microcosm or ‘bottle’ experiments, physically realizing the idealized circumstances described in mathematical models. What vindicates such ecological experiments? I argue that ‘extrapolationism’, the (...)
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  18.  29
    Gouldian Arguments and the Sources of Contingency.Alison K. McConwell & Adrian Currie - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (2):243-261.
    ‘Gouldian arguments’ appeal to the contingency of a scientific domain to establish that domain’s autonomy from some body of theory. For instance, pointing to evolutionary contingency, Stephen Jay Gould suggested that natural selection alone is insufficient to explain life on the macroevolutionary scale. In analysing contingency, philosophers have provided source-independent accounts, understanding how events and processes structure history without attending to the nature of those events and processes. But Gouldian Arguments require source-dependent notions of contingency. An account of contingency is (...)
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  19.  9
    Why Experiments Matter.Arnon Levy & Adrian Currie - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (9-10):1066-1090.
    ABSTRACTExperimentation is traditionally considered a privileged means of confirmation. However, why and how experiments form a better confirmatory source relative to other strategies is unclear, and recent discussions have identified experiments with various modeling strategies on the one hand, and with ‘natural’ experiments on the other hand. We argue that experiments aiming to test theories are best understood as controlled investigations of specimens. ‘Control’ involves repeated, fine-grained causal manipulation of focal properties. This capacity generates rich knowledge of the object investigated. (...)
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  20.  42
    Venomous Dinosaurs and Rear-Fanged Snakes: Homology and Homoplasy Characterized. [REVIEW]Adrian Mitchell Currie - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (3):701-727.
    I develop an account of homology and homoplasy drawing on their use in biological inference and explanation. Biologists call on homology and homoplasy to infer character states, support adaptationist explanations, identify evolutionary novelties and hypothesize phylogenetic relationships. In these contexts, the concepts must be understood phylogenetically and kept separate: as they play divergent roles, overlap between the two ought to be avoided. I use these considerations to criticize an otherwise attractive view defended by Gould, Hall, and Ramsey & Peterson. By (...)
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  21.  17
    Philosophy of Science and the Curse of the Case Study.Adrian Currie - 2015 - In Christopher Daly (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 553-572.
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  22.  38
    Mass Extinctions as Major Transitions.Adrian Currie - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (2):29.
    Both paleobiology and investigations of ‘major evolutionary transitions’ are intimately concerned with the macroevolutionary shape of life. It is surprising, then, how little studies of major transitions are informed by paleontological perspectives and. I argue that this disconnect is partially justified because paleobiological investigation is typically ‘phenomena-led’, while investigations of major transitions are ‘theory-led’. The distinction turns on evidential relevance: in the former case, evidence is relevant in virtue of its relationship to some phenomena or hypotheses concerning those phenomena; in (...)
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  23.  47
    Musical Pluralism and the Science of Music.Adrian Currie & Anton Killin - 2016 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 6 (1):9-30.
    The scientific investigation of music requires contributions from a diverse array of disciplines. Given the diverse methodologies, interests and research targets of the disciplines involved, we argue that there is a plurality of legitimate research questions about music, necessitating a focus on integration. In light of this we recommend a pluralistic conception of music—that there is no unitary definition divorced from some discipline, research question or context. This has important implications for how the scientific study of music ought to proceed: (...)
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  24.  20
    From Models-as-Fictions to Models-as-Tools.Adrian Currie - 2017 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4.
    Many accounts of scientific modeling conceive of models as fictions: scientists interact with models in ways analogous to various aesthetic objects. Fictionalists follow most other accounts of modeling by taking them to be revelatory of the actual world in virtue of bearing some resemblance relation to a target system. While such fictionalist accounts capture crucial aspects of modelling practice, they are ill-suited to some design and engineering contexts. Here, models sometimes serve to underwrite design projects whereby real-world targets are constructed. (...)
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  25.  68
    The Mystery of the Triceratops’s Mother: How to Be a Realist About the Species Category.Adrian Mitchell Currie - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (4):795-816.
    Can we be realists about a general category but pluralists about concepts relating to that category? I argue that paleobiological methods of delineating species are not affected by differing species concepts, and that this underwrites an argument that species concept pluralists should be species category realists. First, the criteria by which paleobiologists delineate species are ‘indifferent’ to the species category. That is, their method for identifying species applies equally to any species concept. To identify a new species, paleobiologists show that (...)
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  26.  10
    Creativity, Conservativeness & the Social Epistemology of Science.Adrian Currie - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 76:1-4.
  27.  28
    Not Music, but Musics: A Case for Conceptual Pluralism in Aesthetics.Adrian Currie & Anton Killin - 2017 - Estetika 54 (2):151-174.
    We argue for conceptual pluralism about music. In our view, there is no right answer to the question ‘What is music?’ divorced from some context or interest. Instead, there are several, non-equivalent music concepts suited to different interests – from within some tradition or practice, or by way of some research question or field of inquiry. We argue that unitary definitions of music are problematic, that the role music concepts play in various research questions should motivate conceptual pluralism about music, (...)
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  28.  20
    Geoengineering Tensions.Adrian Currie - forthcoming - Futures.
    There has been much discussion of the moral, legal and prudential implications of geoengineering, and of governance structures for both the research and deployment of such technologies. However, insufficient attention has been paid to how such measures might affect geoengineering in terms of the incentive structures which underwrite scientific progress. There is a tension between the features that make science productive, and the need to govern geoengineering research, which has thus far gone underappreciated. I emphasize how geoengineering research requires governance (...)
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  29.  54
    Ethnographic Analogy, the Comparative Method, and Archaeological Special Pleading.Adrian Currie - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 55:84-94.
    Ethnographic analogy, the use of comparative data from anthropology to inform reconstructions of past human societies, has a troubled history. Archaeologists often express concern about, or outright reject, the practice—and sometimes do so in problematically general terms. This is odd, as the use of comparative data in archaeology is the same pattern of reasoning as the ‘comparative method’ in biology, which is a well-developed and robust set of inferences which play a central role in discovering the biological past. In pointing (...)
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  30.  3
    Accelerating the Carbon Cycle: The Ethics of Enhanced Weathering.Adrian Currie & Holly Lawford-Smith - 2017 - Biology Letters 13 (4):1-6.
    Enhanced weathering, in comparison to other geoengineering measures, creates the possibility of a reduced cost, reduced impact way of decreasing atmospheric carbon, with positive knock-on effects such as decreased oceanic acidity. We argue that ethical concerns have a place alongside empirical, political and social factors as we consider how to best respond to the critical challenge that anthropogenic climate change poses. We review these concerns, considering the ethical issues that arise (or would arise) in the large-scale deployment of enhanced weathering. (...)
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  31.  19
    Epistemic Optimism, Speculation, and the Historical Sciences.Adrian Currie - 2019 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11.
    Here’s something I’m willing to claim we know: Homo sapiens, in particular the Polynesian settlers who first arrived in Aotearoa around the twelfth century, take the lion’s share of causal blame for the extinction of a lineage of enormous flightless birds: the moa. Stretching to three metres at their tallest, moa were a distinctive and remarkable feature of Aotearoa’s primeval forests, playing the main browser and grazer role in this unique bird-based ecosystem. Once humans turned up forests were burned, moa (...)
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  32.  22
    From Models-as-Fictions to Models-as-Tools.Adrian Currie - 2017 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4.
    Many accounts of scientific modeling conceive of models as fictions: scientists interact with models in ways analogous to various aesthetic objects. Fictionalists follow most other accounts of modeling by taking them to be revelatory of the actual world in virtue of bearing some resemblance relation to a target system. While such fictionalist accounts capture crucial aspects of modelling practice, they are ill-suited to some design and engineering contexts. Here, models sometimes serve to underwrite design projects whereby real-world targets are constructed. (...)
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  33.  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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  34.  52
    Frameworks for Historians & Philosophers.Adrian Currie & Kirsten Walsh - 2018 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 9:1-34.
    The past can be a stubborn subject: it is complex, heterogeneous and opaque. To understand it, one must decide which aspects of the past to emphasise and which to minimise. Enter frameworks. Frameworks foreground certain aspects of the historical record while backgrounding others. As such, they are both necessary for, and conducive to, good history as well as good philosophy. We examine the role of frameworks in the history and philosophy of science and argue that they are necessary for both (...)
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  35.  54
    Convergence, Contingency & Morphospace: G. R. McGhee: Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2011.Adrian Mitchell Currie - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (4):583-593.
    George McGhee’s book “Convergent Evolution: limited forms most beautiful” provides an extensive survey of biological convergence. This paper has two main aims. First, it examines the theoretical claims McGhee makes about convergent evolution—specifically criticizing his use of a total morphospace to understand contingency and his assumption that functional constraints are non-contingent. Second, it sketches a group of important conceptual challenges facing researchers interested in convergence.
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  36.  23
    Forces, Friction and Fractionation: Denis Walsh’s Organisms, Agency, and Evolution: 294 Pp, Hardcover, ISBN: 1107122104. [REVIEW]Andrew Buskell & Adrian Currie - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):1341-1353.
    In Denis Walsh’s Organisms, Agency, and Evolution, he argues that new developments in the science of biology motivate a radical change to our metaphysical picture of life: what he calls ‘Situated Darwinism’. The central claim is that we should take the biological world to be at base about organisms, and organisms in a fundamentally teleological sense. We critically examine Walsh’s arguments and suggest further developments.
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  37.  43
    Caricatures, Myths, and White Lies.Kirsten Walsh & Adrian Currie - 2015 - Metaphilosophy 46 (3):414-435.
    Pedagogical situations require white lies: in teaching philosophy we make decisions about what to omit, what to emphasise, and what to distort. This article considers when it is permissible to distort the historical record, arguing for a tempered respect for the historical facts. It focuses on the rationalist/empiricist distinction, which still frames most undergraduate early modern courses despite failing to capture the intellectual history of that period. It draws an analogy with Michael Strevens's view on idealisation in causal explanation to (...)
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  38.  50
    Big Dragons on Small Islands: Generality and Particularity in Science: Review of Angela Potochnik’s Idealization and the Aims of Science.Adrian Currie - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):20.
    Angela Potochnik’s Idealization and the Aims of Science defends an ambitious and systematic account of scientific knowledge: ultimately science pursues human understanding rather than truth. Potochnik argues that idealization is rampant and unchecked in science. Further, given that idealizations involve departures from truth, this suggests science is not primarily about truth. I explore the relationship between truths about causal patterns and scientific understanding in light of this, and suggest that Potochnik underestimates the importance and power of highly particular narrative explanations.
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  39.  1
    Big Dragons on Small Islands: Generality and Particularity in Science.Adrian Currie - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3 - 4):1-12.
    Angela Potochnik’s Idealization and the Aims of Science defends an ambitious and systematic account of scientific knowledge: ultimately science pursues human understanding rather than truth. Potochnik argues that idealization is rampant and unchecked in science. Further, given that idealizations involve departures from truth, this suggests science is not primarily about truth. I explore the relationship between truths about causal patterns and scientific understanding in light of this, and suggest that Potochnik underestimates the importance and power of highly particular narrative explanations.
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  40.  18
    Creativity and Philosophy.Adrian Currie - 2020 - British Journal of Aesthetics 60 (2):225-229.
    Creativity and PhilosophyBerys Gaut and Matthew Kieran Routledge. 2018. pp. 394. £30.99.
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  41. Comparative Thinking in Biology.Adrian Currie - 2021 - Cambridge University Press.
    Biologists often study living systems in light of their having evolved, of their being the products of various processes of heredity, adaptation, ancestry, and so on. In their investigations, then, biologists think comparatively: they situate lineages into models of those evolutionary processes, comparing their targets with ancestral relatives and with analogous evolutionary outcomes. This element characterizes this mode of investigation - 'comparative thinking' - and puts it to work in understanding why biological science takes the shape it does. Importantly, comparative (...)
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  42.  21
    Introduction: Creativity, Conservatism & the Social Epistemology of Science.Adrian Currie - forthcoming - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science A.
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  43.  10
    Isabelle F. Peschard and Bas C. van Fraassen (Eds.): The Experimental Side of Modeling.Adrian Currie - 2020 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 51 (3):499-502.
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  44.  5
    Isabelle F. Peschard and Bas C. Van Fraassen (Eds.): The Experimental Side of Modeling: (Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol 21). University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota, 2018, 336 Pp., $ 40,00 (Paperback), ISBN: 978-1-5179-0534-7. [REVIEW]Adrian Currie - 2020 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 51 (3):499-502.
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  45.  36
    Melinda Fagan Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology: Knowledge in Flesh and Blood.Adrian Currie - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (2):651-655.
  46.  38
    Narratives & Mechanisms.Adrian Currie - unknown
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  47.  8
    oren harman and michael r. dietrich (eds). Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018, 336 pp. [REVIEW]Adrian Currie - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (2):1-3.
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  48.  43
    Paleobiology and Philosophy.Adrian Currie - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (2):31.
    I offer four ways of distinguishing paleobiology from neontology, and from this develop a sketch of the philosophy of paleobiology. I then situate and describe the papers in the special issue Paleobiology and Philosophy, and reflect on the value and prospects of paleontology-focused philosophy.
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  49.  28
    Reports From the High Table: Sepkoski and Ruse : The Paleobiological Revolution: Essays on the Growth of Modern Paleontology, University of Chicago Press, 2009.Adrian Currie - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (1):149-158.
    David Sepkoski and Michael Ruse’s edited collection The Peolobiological Revolution covers the changes in paleontological science in the last half-century. The collection should be of interest to philosophers of science (particularly those interested in non-reductive unity) as well as historians. I give an overview of the content and major themes of the volume and draw some lessons for the philosophy of science along the way. In particular, I argue that the history of paleontology demands a new approach to philosophical delineation (...)
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  50.  7
    Review of Evidential Reasoning in ArchaeologyRobert Chapman and Alison Wylie, Evidential Reasoning in Archaeology. London: Bloomsbury Academic , 264 Pp., $82.00. [REVIEW]Adrian Currie - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (4):782-790.
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