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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
In this discussion review of Robert John Russell's collection of essays I agree with him about the necessity of human existence given the claims of Christian theology. I look in detail at his suggestions for speaking to this issue, especially his thesis of NIODA—noninterventionist objective divine action. I end up disagreeing with the suggestion and argue that in respects Russell is tackling the science-religion relationship in the wrong way.