What is the Darwinian revolution and why is it important for philosophers? These are the questions tackled in this Element. In four sections, the topics covered are the story of the revolution, the question of whether it really was a revolution, the nature of the revolution, and the implications for philosophy, both epistemology and ethics.
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).
For much of this century, moral philosophy has been constrained by the supposed absolute gap between is and ought , and the consequent belief that the facts of life cannot of themselves yield an ethical blueprint for future action. For this reason, ethics has sustained an eerie existence largely apart from science. Its most respected interpreters still believe that reasoning about right and wrong can be successful without a knowledge of the brain, the human organ where all the decisions about (...) right and wrong are made. Ethical premises are typically treated in the manner of mathematical propositions: directives supposedly independent of human evolution, with a claim to ideal, eternal truth. (shrink)
What are biological species? Aristotelians and Lockeans agree that they are natural kinds; but, evolutionary theory shows that neither traditional philosophical approach is truly adequate. Recently, Michael Ghiselin and David Hull have argued that species are individuals. This claim is shown to be against the spirit of much modern biology. It is concluded that species are natural kinds of a sort, and that any 'objectivity' they possess comes from their being at the focus of a consilience of inductions.
Evolutionary ethics - the application of evolutionary ideas to moral thinking and justification - began in the nineteenth century with the work of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, but was subsequently criticized as an example of the naturalistic fallacy. In recent decades, however, evolutionary ethics has found new support among both the Darwinian and the Spencerian traditions. This accessible volume looks at the history of thought about evolutionary ethics as well as current debates in the subject, examining first the claims (...) of supporters and then the responses of their critics. Topics covered include social Darwinism, moral realism, and debunking arguments. Clearly written and structured, the book guides readers through the arguments on both sides, and emphasises the continuing relevance of evolutionary theory to our understanding of ethics today. (shrink)
Michael Ruse offers a new analysis of the often troubled relationship between science and religion. Arguing against both extremes - in one corner, the New Atheists; in the other, the Creationists and their offspring the Intelligent Designers - he asserts that science is the highest source of human inquiry. Yet, by its very nature and its deep reliance on metaphor, science restricts itself and is unable to answer basic, significant questions about the meaning of the universe and humankind's place within (...) it: why is there something rather than nothing? What is the meaning of it all? Ruse shows that one can legitimately be a skeptic about these questions, and yet why it is open for a Christian, or member of any faith, to offer answers. Scientists, he concludes, should be proud of their achievements but modest about their scope. Christians should be confident of their mission but respectful of the successes of science. (shrink)
Presenting an ardent defence of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, this book offers a clear and comprehensive exposition of Darwin's thinking. Michael Ruse brings the story up to date, examining the origins of life, the fossil record, and the mechanism of natural selection. Rival theories are explored, from punctuated equilibrium to human evolution. The philosophical and religious implications of Darwinism are discussed, including a discussion of Creationism and its modern day offshoot, Intelligent Design Theory. Ruse draws upon the most recent (...) discoveries, writing with a minimum of jargon in order to appeal to all readers, from professional biologists to those concerned that Darwinism is a naturalistic religion that is forced on school children despite their own Christian convictions. Openly revealing his own beliefs, Ruse presents readers with all the information and critical tools they need to make an informed decision on evolutionary theory. (shrink)
There are two main senses of ‘mechanism’, both deriving from the metaphor of nature as a machine. One sense refers to contrivance or design, as in ‘the plant’s mechanism of attracting butterflies’. The other sense refers to cause or law process, as in ‘the mechanism of heredity’. In his work on evolution, Charles Darwin showed that organisms are produced by a mechanism in the second sense, although he never used this language. He also discussed contrivance, where he did use the (...) language of mechanism. This discussion relates metaphor in general and Darwin’s use of the machine metaphor in particular to the problem of the nature of science, concluding that one use of the metaphor reinforces the objective nature of science and the other use reinforces the subjective nature of science. (shrink)
Biologists study life in its various physical forms, while philosophers of biology seek answers to questions about the nature, purpose, and impact of this research. What permits us to distinguish between living and nonliving things even though both are made of the same minerals? Is the complex structure of organisms proof that a creative force is working its will in the physical universe, or are existing life-forms the random result of an evolutionary process working itself out over eons of time? (...) What moral and social questions arise regarding modern advances in biotechnology? What is more relevant to human nature: genetics or sociocultural influences? Is Darwinism the death-knell of God? These are just some of the vital questions addressed by a distinguished group of philosophers and scientists which includes: Aristotle, Francisco J. Ayala, , Michael Benton, Tom Bethell, Joe Cain, David Castle, Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, Michael Denton, A.G.N. Flew, Stephen Jay Gould, J.B.S. Haldane, John F. Haught, D. W. E. Hone, James W. Kirchner, James Lovelock, Jane Maienschein, Ernst Mayr, Gregory M. Mikkelson, Leslie Orgal, William Paley, the Prince of Wales, Christopher Pynes, Richard A. Richards, Mark Ridley, Holmes Rolston III, Michael Ruse, Lee Silver, Elliott Sober, Kim Sterelny, Derek Turner, and Edward O. Wilson. This second edition contains material on design without selection, testing macroevolutionary claims, recent biotechnological issues, key ecological concerns, the Gaia hypothesis, genetically modified foods, and the so-called intelligent design movement. (shrink)
This paper considers the question of whether the explanation of homosexual orientation offered by Sigmund Freud qualifies as a genuine explanation, judged by the criteria of the social sciences. It is argued that the explanation, namely that homosexual orientation is a function of atypical parental influences, is indeed an explanation of the kind found in the social sciences. Nevertheless, it is concluded that to date Freud's hypotheses about homosexuality are no more than unproven speculations. Also considered is the question of (...) whether the very topic of homosexuality falls or ought to fall within the domain of medical inquiry. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This short and highly accessible volume opens up the subject of the philosophy of biology to professionals and to students in both disciplines. The text covers briefly and clearly all of the pertinent topics in the subject, dealing with both human and non-human issues, and quite uniquely surveying not only scholars in the English-speaking world but others elsewhere, including the Eastern block. As molecular biologists peer ever more deeply into life’s mysteries, there are those who fear that such ‘reductionism’ conceals (...) more than it reveals, and there are those who complain that the new techniques threaten the physical safety of us all. As students of evolution apply their new-found understanding to our own species, some people think that this is merely an excuse for racist and sexist propaganda, and others worry that the whole exercise blatantly violates the religious beliefs many of us hold dear. These controversies are the joint concern of biologists and philosophers—of those whose task it is to study the theoretical and moral foundations of knowledge. The comprehensive and fully up-to-date bibliography makes this an invaluable and indispensable guide. (shrink)
The definitive work on the philosophical nature and impact of the theories of Charles Darwin, written by a well-known authority on the history and philosophy of Darwinism. Broadly explores the theories of Charles Darwin and Darwin studies Incorporates much information about modern Biology Offers a comprehensive discussion of Darwinism and Christianity – including Creationism – by one of the leading authorities in the field Written in clear, concise, user-friendly language supplemented with quality illustrations Examines the status of evolutionary theory as (...) a genuine theory and its implications for philosophy, epistemology and ethics Provides a strong understanding of the philosophical nature and impact of Darwin's thought Holds wide appeal for general audiences outside the world of academic philosophy Strongly supports Darwinism and fully explores modern naturalistic explanations of religion. (shrink)
The debate on whether insurance companies should be allowed to use results of individuals’ genetic tests for underwriting purposes has been both lively and increasingly relevant over the past two decades. Yet there appears to be no widely agreed upon resolution regarding appropriate and effective regulation. There exists today a gamut of recommendations and actual practices addressing this phenomenon ranging from laissez-faire to voluntary industry moratoria to strict legal prohibition. One obvious reason for such a variance in views and approaches (...) is that there are competing bases for evaluating the outcomes of restricting insurers’ use of such information. For example, an outright ban on the use of genetic test results may seem the best method for protecting against unfair discrimination, while allowing their use may seem to be the best way to foster efficiency in the market for insurance. However, there is also a lack of understanding about how restricting the use of genetic information would play out in the market through the so-called phenomenon of adverse selection. Using economic analysis, we discuss how the type of adverse selection that occurs in insurance markets affects various arguments both in favour and against an outright ban on insurers’ use of genetic tests for pricing insurance. We review arguments based on moral principles . Practical concerns from the insurance industry based on actuarial principles and economic efficiency are also compared. Each perspective is shown to lead to a range of conflicting recommendations about how genetic information should be regulated and these conclusions depend critically on whether one conducts the analysis from the ex ante temporal perspective , from the interim temporal perspective , or from the ex post temporal perspective. (shrink)
Methodological naturalism is the assumption or working hypothesis that understanding nature (the physical world including humans and their thoughts and actions) can be understood in terms of unguided laws. There is no need to Suppose interventions (miracles) from outside. It does not commit one to metaphysical naturalism, the belief that there is nothing other than nature as we can see and observe it (in other words, that atheism is the right theology for the sound thinker). Recently the Intelligent Design movement (...) has been arguing against methodological naturalism, and in this project they have been joined by the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga. In this paper I examine Plantinga’s arguments and conclude not only that they are not well taken, but that he does no good service to his religion either. (shrink)
In this book, first published in 2004, William Dembski, Michael Ruse, and other prominent philosophers provide a comprehensive balanced overview of the debate concerning biological origins - a controversial dialectic since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably, the source of controversy has been 'design'. Is the appearance of design in organisms the result of purely natural forces acting without prevision or teleology? Or, does the appearance of design signify genuine prevision and teleology, and, if so, is that (...) design empirically detectable and thus open to scientific inquiry? Four main positions have emerged in response to these questions: Darwinism, self-organisation, theistic evolution, and intelligent design. The contributors to this volume define their respective positions in an accessible style, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate. (shrink)
Is organicism inherently Christian-friendly, and for that matter, is mechanism inherently religion nonfriendly? They have tended to be, but the story is much more complicated. The long history of the intertwined metaphors of nature taken as an organism, versus that of nature as a machine, reveals that both metaphors have flourished in the endeavors of philosophers, scientists, and persons of faith alike. Different kinds of Christians have been receptive to both organicist and mechanistic models, just as various kinds of nonreligious (...) scientists have been receptive to both holistic and machine metaphors. Although, it is true, organicism has been generally more attractive to persons of faith than mechanism, an overview of the rich and varied history of allegiances to these metaphors—religious and nonreligious alike—shows that debate is much more interesting and complex. A brief inspection of conversation surrounding recent scientific discoveries shows that this debate between metaphors is still very much alive today. (shrink)
In recent years Sir Karl Popper has been turning his attention more and more towards philosophical problems arising from biology, particularly evolutionary biology. Popper suggests that perhaps neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory is better categorized as a metaphysical research program than as a scientific theory. In this paper it is argued that Popper can draw his conclusions only because he is abysmally ignorant of the current status of biological thought and that Popper's criticisms of biology are without force and his suggestions for (...) its improvement are without need. Also it is suggested that Popper's desire to see scientific theory growth as being in some sense evolutionary may have led him astray about biology. And conversely it is suggested that since his claims about biology are not well taken his analysis of theory growth may well bear reexamination. (shrink)
The philosophy of biology is one of the most exciting new areas in the field of philosophy and one that is attracting much attention from working scientists. This Companion, edited by two of the founders of the field, includes newly commissioned essays by senior scholars and up-and-coming younger scholars who collectively examine the main areas of the subject - the nature of evolutionary theory, classification, teleology and function, ecology, and the problematic relationship between biology and religion, among other topics. Up-to-date (...) and comprehensive in its coverage, this unique volume will be of interest not only to professional philosophers but also to students in the humanities and researchers in the life sciences and related areas of inquiry. (shrink)
Abstract. I respond to the criticisms of David Wisdo of my position on the relationship between science and religion. I argue that although he gives a full and fair account of my position, he fails to grasp fully my use of the metaphorical basis of modern science in my argument that, because of its mechanistic commitment, there are some questions that science not only does not answer but that science does not even attempt to answer. Hence, my position stands and (...) plays a crucial role in our understanding of the science–religion relationship. (shrink)
Introduction -- Part I: Epistemology after Darwin -- Part II: Ethics after Darwin -- Part III: The evolution of ideas -- Part IV: The evolution of rationality -- - Part V: Ethics and progress -- Part VI: The evolution of altruism.
This paper is interested in the relationship between evolutionary thinking and moral behavior and commitments, ethics. There is a traditional way of forging or conceiving of the relationship. This is traditional evolutionary ethics, known as Social Darwinism. Many think that this position is morally pernicious, a redescription of the worst aspects of modern, laissez-faire capitalism in fancy biological language. It is argued that, in fact, there is much more to be said for Social Darwinism than many think. In respects, it (...) could be and was an enlightened position to take; but it flounders on the matter of justification. Universally, the appeal is to progress—evolution is progressive and, hence, morally we should aid its success. I argue, however, that this progressive nature of evolution is far from obvious and, hence, traditional social Darwinism fails. There is another way to do things. This is to argue that the search for justification is mistaken. Ethics just is. It is an adaptation for humans living socially and has exactly the same status as other adaptations, like hands and teeth and genitalia. As such, ethics is something with no standing beyond what it is. However, if we all thought that this was so, we would stop being moral. So part of the experience of ethics is that it is more than it is. We think that it has an objective referent. In short, ethics is an illusion put in place by our genes to make us good social cooperators. (shrink)