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).
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
There is a strong need of a reasoned defense of what was known as the “independence” position of the science–religion relationship but that more recently has been denigrated as the “accommodationist” position, namely that while there are parts of religion—fundamentalist Christianity in particular—that clash with modern science, the essential parts of religion do not and could not clash with science. A case for this position is made on the grounds of the essentially metaphorical nature of science. Modern science functions because (...) of its root metaphor of the machine: the world is seen in mechanical terms. As Thomas Kuhn insisted, metaphors function in part by ruling some questions outside their domain. In the case of modern science, four questions go unasked and hence unanswered: Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the foundation of morality? What is mind and its relationship to matter? What is the meaning of it all? You can remain a nonreligious skeptic on these questions, but it is open for the Christian to offer his or her answers, so long as they are not scientific answers. Here then is a way that science and religion can coexist. (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)
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)
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)
Richard Dawkins argues both that Darwin's theory made a God-as-the-designer-of-species redundant, and also that the problem of evil provides overwhelming evidence against God's existence. But Michael Ruse suspects Dawkins may be too hasty….
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)
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.
Ernan McMullin's 1982 presidential address to the Philosophy of Science Association dealt with the issue of science and values, arguing that although scientists are rightfully wary of the infiltration of cultural and social values, their work is guided by “epistemic values,” such as the drive for consistency and predictive fertility. McMullin argued that it is the pursuit of these epistemic values that drives nonepistemic values from science. Using the case study of the fate of the nonepistemic value of progress in (...) the history of evolutionary theorizing, I show that, vital though McMullin's thinking was for my own scholarship, in fact the study shows that the connections between epistemic and nonepistemic values in science are more complex than either of us supposed. (shrink)
WE ARE FACED WITH GROWING POWERS OF MANIPULATION OF OUR HUMAN GENETIC MAKEUP. WHILE NOT DENYING THAT THESE POWERS CAN BE USED FOR GREAT GOOD, IT BEHOOVES US TO THINK NOW OF POSSIBLE UPPER LIMITS TO THE CHANGE THAT WE MIGHT WANT TO EFFECT. I ARGUE THAT THOUGHTS OF CHANGING THE HUMAN SPECIES INTO A RACE OF SUPERMEN AND SUPERWOMEN ARE BASED ON WEAK PREMISES. GENETIC FINE-TUNING MAY INDEED BE IN ORDER; WHOLESALE GENETIC CHANGE IS NOT.
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)
Are science and religion necessarily in conflict? This essay, by stressing the importance of metaphor in scientific understanding, argues that this is not so. There are certain important questions about existence, ethics, sentience and ultimate meaning and purpose that not only does science not answer but that science does not even attempt to answer. One does not necessarily have to turn to religion—one could remain agnostic or skeptical—but nothing in science precludes religion from offering answers. One may criticize the answers (...) of religion, but so long as religion is not attempting surreptitiously to offer scientific answers, the criticisms must be theological or philosophical or of like nature, and cannot simply be purely scientific. (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)
My book, "The Darwinian Revolution" gives an overview of the revolution as understood at the time of its writing (1979). It shows that many factors were involved, from straight science through philosophical methodology, and on to religious influences and challenges. Also of importance were social factors, not the least of which was the professionalization of science in Britain in the 19th century. Since the appearance of that book, new, significant factors have become apparent, and here I discuss some of the (...) most important -- especially the way in which evolution as an idea came into being as an epiphenomenon of the ideology of cultural progress; the (often tense) interaction between ideas of biological progress and the urge to professionalization, and of how this led to a delay in the full appreciation of what Charles Darwin had done in the "Origin;" and the ongoing divide between biological functionalists and biological formalists, a Kuhnian-type paradigm difference that persists across the Darwinian revolution. (shrink)
Hopes of applying the findings and speculations of evolutionary theorizing to the problems of ethics have yielded a program with a bad reputation. At the level of norms – substantival ethics – it has been a platform for some of the more grotesque socio-politico-economic suggestions of our times. At the level of justification – metaethics – it has opened the way to some of the more blatant fallacies in the undergraduate textbook. Recently, however, a number of people, philosophers and biologists, (...) have sensed that a more adequate evolutionary ethics might be possible. United in the conviction that it simply has to matter that we humans are modified monkeys rather than the creation of a Good God, in His image, on the Sixth Day, they argue that recent developments in evolutionary biology, especially those dealing with the genetic basis of social behavior, open the way to a satisfactory biological understanding of morality. (shrink)