One way to understand science is as a selection process. David Hull, one of the dominant figures in contemporary philosophy of science, sets out in this 2001 volume a general analysis of this selection process that applies equally to biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens, operant learning, and social and conceptual change in science. Hull aims to distinguish between those characteristics that are contingent features of selection and those that are essential. Science and Selection (...) brings together many of David Hull's most important essays on selection in one accessible volume. (shrink)
Biological species have been treated traditionally as spatiotemporally unrestricted classes. If they are to perform the function which they do in the evolutionary process, they must be spatiotemporally localized individuals, historical entities. Reinterpreting biological species as historical entities solves several important anomalies in biology, in philosophy of biology, and within philosophy itself. It also has important implications for any attempt to present an "evolutionary" analysis of science and for sciences such as anthropology which are devoted to the study of single (...) species. (shrink)
Drawing on work of the past decade, this volume brings together articles from the philosophy, history, and sociology of science, and many other branches of the biological sciences. The volume delves into the latest theoretical controversies as well as burning questions of contemporary social importance. The issues considered include the nature of evolutionary theory, biology and ethics, the challenge from religion, and the social implications of biology today (in particular the Human Genome Project).
Authors frequently refer to gene-based selection in biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens, and operant learning as exemplifying selection processes in the same sense of this term. However, as obvious as this claim may seem on the surface, setting out an account of “selection” that is general enough to incorporate all three of these processes without becoming so general as to be vacuous is far from easy. In this target article, we set out such a general (...) account of selection to see how well it accommodates these very different sorts of selection. The three fundamental elements of this account are replication, variation, and environmental interaction. For selection to occur, these three processes must be related in a very specific way. In particular, replication must alternate with environmental interaction so that any changes that occur in replication are passed on differentially because of environmental interaction. One of the main differences among the three sorts of selection that we investigate concerns the role of organisms. In traditional biological evolution, organisms play a central role with respect to environmental interaction. Although environmental interaction can occur at other levels of the organizational hierarchy, organisms are the primary focus of environmental interaction. In the functioning of the immune system, organisms function as containers. The interactions that result in selection of antibodies during a lifetime are between entities (antibodies and antigens) contained within the organism. Resulting changes in the immune system of one organism are not passed on to later organisms. Nor are changes in operant behavior resulting from behavioral selection passed on to later organisms. But operant behavior is not contained in the organism because most of the interactions that lead to differential replication include parts of the world outside the organism. Changes in the organism's nervous system are the effects of those interactions. The role of genes also varies in these three systems. Biological evolution is gene-based (i.e., genes are the primary replicators). Genes play very different roles in operant behavior and the immune system. However, in all three systems, iteration is central. All three selection processes are also incredibly wasteful and inefficient. They can generate complexity and novelty primarily because they are so wasteful and inefficient. Key Words: evolution; immunology; interaction; operant behavior; operant learning; replication; selection; variation. (shrink)
The claim that conceptual systems change is a platitude. That our conceptual systems are theory-laden is no less platitudinous. Given evolutionary theory, biologists are led to divide up the living world into genes, organisms, species, etc. in a particular way. No theory-neutral individuation of individuals or partitioning of these individuals into natural kinds is possible. Parallel observations should hold for philosophical theories about scientific theories. In this paper I summarize a theory of scientific change which I set out in considerable (...) detail in a book that I shall publish in the near future. Just as few scientists were willing to entertain the view that species evolve in the absence of a mechanism capable of explaining this change, so philosophers should be just as reticent about accepting a parallel view of conceptual systems in science evolving in the absence of a mechanism to explain this evolution. In this paper I set out such a mechanism. One reason that this task has seemed so formidable in the past is that we have all construed conceptual systems inappropriately. If we are to understand the evolution of conceptual systems in science, we must interpret them as forming lineages related by descent. In my theory, the notion of a family resemblance is taken literally, not metaphorically. In my book, I set out data to show that the mechanism which I propose is actually operative. In this paper, such data is assumed. (shrink)
Extreme variation in the meaning of the term “species” throughout the history of biology has often frustrated attempts of historians, philosophers and biologists to communicate with one another about the transition in biological thinking from the static species concept to the modern notion of evolving species. The most important change which has underlain all the other fluctuations in the meaning of the word “species” is the change from it denoting such metaphysical entities as essences, Forms or Natures to denoting classes (...) of individual organisms. Several authors have taken notice of the role of metaphysics in the work of particular biologists. An attempt will be made in this paper to present a systematic investigation of the role which metaphysics has played in the work of representative biologists throughout the history of biology, especially as it relates to their species concepts. (shrink)
Sharon Street’s 2006 article “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value” challenges the epistemological pretensions of the moral realist, of the nonnaturalist in particular. Given that “Evolutionary forces have played a tremendous role in shaping the content of human evaluative attitudes” – why should one suppose such attitudes and concomitant beliefs would track an independent moral reality? Especially since, on a nonnaturalist view, moral truth is causally inert. I abstract a logical skeleton of Street’s argument and, with its aid, (...) focus on problematic assumptions regarding the (a)causality of moral truth. It emerges that there are acquired causal powers that compensate for the intrinsic impotence of moral truth, as well as two distinct levels at which truth-tracking might occur. I argue that while evolution’s selective forces do not track moral truth, that does not imply individual organisms could not have evolved that capability. -/- . (shrink)
If species are the things that evolve at least in large part through the action of natural selection, then both genetic and phenotypic variability are essential to biological species. If all species are variable, then Homo sapiens must be variable. Hence, it is very unlikely that the human species as a biological species can be characterized by a set of invariable traits. It might be the case that at this moment in evolutionary history, all human beings happen to possess a (...) particular set (or unimodal cluster) of traits, but if so, this will be in large part an evolutionary accident. As a result, anyone who proposes to base anything, including ethics, on human nature is basing it on historical happenstance. (shrink)
For a long time, several natural phenomena have been considered unproblematically selection processes in the same sense of “selection.” In our target article we dealt with three of these phenomena: gene-based selection in biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens, and operant learning. We characterize selection in terms of three processes (variation, replication, and environmental interaction) resulting in the evolution of lineages via differential replication. Our commentators were largely supportive with respect to variation and environmental interaction but (...) critical with respect to replication, in particular its appeal to information. With some reservations, our commentators think that our general analysis of selection may fit gene-based selection in biological evolution and the reaction of the immune system but not operant learning. If nothing else, this article shows that the notion of selection is not as straightforward as it may seem. (shrink)
Karl Popper has been one of the few philosophers of sciences who has influenced scientists. I evaluate Popper's influence on our understanding of evolutionary theory from his earliest publications to the present. Popper concluded that three sorts of statements in evolutionary biology are not genuine laws of nature. I take him to be right on this score. Popper's later distinction between evolutionary theory as a metaphysical research program and as a scientific theory led more than one scientist to misunderstand his (...) position on evolutionary theory as a scientific theory. In his later work Popper also introduced what he took to be improvements of evolutionary theory. Thus far these improvements have had almost no influence on evolutionary biology. I conclude by examining the influence of Popper on the reception of cladistic analysis. (shrink)
During the past hundred years or so, those scholars studying science have isolated themselves as much as possible from scientists as well as from workers in other disciplines who study science. The result of this effort is history of science, philosophy of science and sociology of science as separate disciplines. I argue in this paper that now is the time for these disciplinary boundaries to be lowered or at least made more permeable so that a unified discipline of Science Studies (...) might emerge. I discuss representative problems that stand in the way of such an integration. These problems may seem so formidable in the abstract that no one in their right mind would waste their time trying to bring about a unified field of Science Studies. However, those of us who limit ourselves to the study of the biological sciences have already formed a society in which workers from all disciplines can share their expertise -- the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science. (shrink)
An invisible hand seems to play an important role in science. In this paper I set out the general structure of invisible-hand explanations, counter some objections that have been raised to them, and detail the role that they play in science. The most important issue is the character of the mechanisms that are supposed to bring about invisible-hand effects.
A belief common among philosophers and biologists alike is that Mendelian genetics has been or is in the process of being reduced to molecular genetics, in the sense of formal theory reduction current in the literature. The purpose of this paper is to show that there are numerous empirical and conceptual difficulties which stand in the way of establishing a systematic inferential relation between Mendelian and molecular genetics. These difficulties, however, have little to do with the traditional objections which have (...) been raised to reduction. (shrink)
In this paper I characterize science in terms of both invisible hand social organization and selection. These two processes are responsible for different features of science. Individuals working in isolation cannot produce much in the way of the warranted knowledge. Individual biases severely limit how much secure knowledge an individual can generate on his or her own. Individuals working in consort are required, but social groups can be organized in many different ways. The key feature of the social organization in (...) science is that only working scientists can confer the most important reward in science — use — and scientists must use each other's work in order to succeed in realizing this goal. An analysis of science as a selection process serves quite a different function. Individual scientists strive to come up with novel solutions to significant problems. The question then becomes how to be creative. From a selective perspective, science as a process involves the production of numerous alternatives and a selection among them. A single scientist solving an important problem makes science look very efficient. Treating science as a selection process casts it in a very different light. In this paper I combine an invisible hand mechanism with a selective perspective in order to explain why science is as successful as it is. I do not make recourse to evolutionary epistemology in any of its traditional senses. (shrink)
Mayr has made both conceptual and professional contributions to the establishment of the history and philosophy of biology. His conceptual contributions include, among many others, the notion of population thinking. He has also played an important role in the establishment of history and philosophy of biology as viable professional disciplines.
Academia is subdivided into separate disciplines, most of which are quite discrete. In this review I trace the interactions between two of these disciplines: biology and philosophy of biology. I concentrate on those topics that have the most extensive biological content: function, species, systematics, selection, reduction and development. In the final section of this paper I touch briefly on those issues that biologists and philosophers have addressed that do not have much in the way of biological content.
The topic of this paper is external versus internal explanations, first, of the genesis of evolutionary theory and, second, its reception. Victorian England was highly competitive and individualistic. So was the view of society promulgated by Malthus and the theory of evolution set out by Charles Darwin and A.R. Wallace. The fact that Darwin and Wallace independently produced a theory of evolution that was just as competitive and individualistic as the society in which they lived is taken as evidence for (...) the impact that society has on science. The same conclusion is reached with respect to the reception of evolutionary theory. Because Darwin's contemporaries lived in such a competitive and individualistic society, they were prone to accept a theory that exhibited these same characteristics. The trouble is that Darwin and Wallace did not live in anything like the same society and did not formulate the same theory. Although the character of Victorian society may have influenced the acceptance of evolutionary theory, it was not the competitive, individualistic theory that Darwin and Wallace set out but a warmer, more comforting theory. (shrink)
The role of scientific theories in classifying plants and animals is traced from Hennig's phylogenetics and the evolutionary taxonomy of Simpson and Mayr, through numerical phenetics, to present-day cladistics. Hennig limited biological classification to sister groups so that this one relation can be expressed unambiguously in classifications. Simpson and Mayr were willing to sacrifice precision in representation in order to include additional features of evolution in the construction of classifications. In order to make classifications more objective, precise and quantitative, numerical (...) pheneticists limited themselves to representing degrees of phenetic similarity. Finally, present-day cladists can be separated into phylogenetic cladists, who retain much of Hennig's theory of classification, and pattern cladists, who have stripped Hennig's system down to its bare essentials. (shrink)
Philosophers have distinguished a metaphysical category which they term "historical entities" or "continuants". Such particulars are spatiotemporally localized and develop continuously through time while retaining internal cohesiveness. Species, social groups and conceptual systems can be profitably treated as historical entities. No damage is done to preanalytic intuitions in treating social groups as historical entities; both biological species and conceptual systems can be construed as historical entities only by modifying the ordinary way of viewing both. However, if species and conceptual systems (...) are to "evolve", then they must be treated as historical entities. The type specimen method, which is used by systematists to individuate and name biological taxa, is set out and then extended to apply to scientific communities as social groups and conceptual systems. (shrink)