In this book Ron Amundson examines two hundred years of scientific views on the evolution-development relationship from the perspective of evolutionary developmental biology. This perspective challenges several popular views about the history of evolutionary thought by claiming that many earlier authors had made history come out right for the Evolutionary Synthesis. The book starts with a revised history of nineteenth-century evolutionary thought. It then investigates how development became irrelevant with the Evolutionary Synthesis. It concludes with an examination of the contrasts (...) that persist between mainstream evolutionary theory and evo-devo. This book will appeal to students and professionals in the philosophy and history of science, and biology. (shrink)
Philosophers of evolutionary biology favor the so-called etiological concept of function according to which the function of a trait is its evolutionary purpose, defined as the effect for which that trait was favored by natural selection. We term this the selected effect (SE) analysis of function. An alternative account of function was introduced by Robert Cummins in a non-evolutionary and non-purposive context. Cummins''s account has received attention but little support from philosophers of biology. This paper will show that a similar (...) non-purposive concept of function, which we term causal role (CR) function, is crucial to certain research programs in evolutionary biology, and that philosophical criticisms of Cummins''s concept are ineffective in this scientific context. Specifically, we demonstrate that CR functions are a vital and ineliminable part of research in comparative and functional anatomy, and that biological categories used by anatomists are not defined by the application of SE functional analysis. Causal role functions are non-historically defined, but may themselves be used in an historical analysis. Furthermore, we show that a philosophical insistence on the primary of SE functions places practicing biologists in an untenable position, as such functions can rarely be demonstrated (in contrast to CR functions). Biologists who study the form and function of organismal design recognize that it is virtually impossible to identify the past action of selection on any particular structure retrospectively, a requirement for recognizing SE functions. (shrink)
The so-called "adaptationism" of mainstream evolutionary biology has been criticized from a variety of sources. One, which has received relatively little philosophical attention, is developmental biology. Developmental constraints are said to be neglected by adaptationists. This paper explores the divergent methodological and explanatory interests that separate mainstream evolutionary biology from its embryological and developmental critics. It will focus on the concept of constraint itself; even this central concept is understood differently by the two sides of the dispute.
Recent historiography of 19th century biology supports the revision of two traditional doctrines about the history of biology. First, the most important and widespread biological debate around the time of Darwin was not evolution versus creation, but biological functionalism versus structuralism. Second, the idealist and typological structuralist theories of the time were not particularly anti-evolutionary. Typological theories provided argumentation and evidence that was crucial to the refutation of Natural Theological creationism. The contrast between functionalist and structuralist approaches to biology continues (...) today, and the historical misunderstanding of 19th century typological biology may be one of its effects. This historical case can shed light on current controversies regarding the relevance of developmental biology to evolution. (shrink)
In this book Ron Amundson examines 200 years of scientific views on the evolution-development relationship from the perspective of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). This new perspective challenges several popular views about the history of evolutionary thought by claiming that many earlier authors made history come out right for the Evolutionary Synthesis. The book starts with a revised history of nineteenth-century evolutionary thought. It then investigates how development became irrelevant to evolution with the Evolutionary Synthesis. It concludes with an examination of (...) the contrasts that persist between mainstream evolutionary theory and evo-devo. (shrink)
Tensions exist between the disability rights movement and the work of many bioethicists. These reveal themselves in a major recent book on bioethics and genetics, From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice. This book defends certain genetic policies against criticisms from disability rights advocates, in part by arguing that it is possible to accept both the genetic policies and the rights of people with impairments. However, a close reading of the book reveals a series of direct moral criticisms of the (...) disability rights movement. The criticisms go beyond a defense of genetic policies from the criticisms of disability rights advocates. The disability rights movement is said not to have the same moral legitimacy as other civil rights movements, such as those for women or "racial" minorities. This paper documents, and in some cases shows the flaws within, these challenges to the disability rights movement. (shrink)
E. C. Tolman's 'purposive behaviorism' is commonly interpreted as an attempt to operationalize a cognitivist theory of learning by the use of the 'Intervening Variable' (IV). Tolman would thus be a counterinstance to an otherwise reliable correlation of cognitivism with realism, and S-R behaviorism with operationalism. A study of Tolman's epistemological background, with a careful reading of his methodological writings, shows the common interpretation to be false. Tolman was a cognitivist and a realist. His 'IV' has been systematically misinterpreted by (...) both behaviorists and antibehaviorists. For this reason, Tolman's alliance with modern cognitivism and his influence on its development have been underestimated. (shrink)
Philosophically inclined psychologists and psychologically inclined philosophers often hold that the substantive discoveries of psychology can provide an empirical foundation for epistemology. In this paper it is argued that the ambition to found epistemology empirically faces certain unnoticed difficulties. Empirical theories concerned with knowledge?gaining abilities have been historically associated with specific epistemological views such that the epistemology gives preferential support to the substantive theory, while the theory empirically supports the epistemology. Theories attribute to the subject just those epistemic abilities which (...) associated epistemologies attribute to the scientist. The concept of epistemological significance is introduced as the significance a psychological theory can have for modifying the epistemological suppositions with which the theory was originally associated. Substantive psychological theories are strongly constrained by the epistemologies used in their development; the endorsement an epistemology receives from its associated theory should carry no weight. The alliance between psychology and epistemology is not progressive to the development of either field. Alternative sources of progress in epistemology and psychology are suggested. (shrink)
Continuing tensions exist between mainstream bioethics and advocates of the disability rights movement. This paper explores some of the grounds for those tensions as exemplified in From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice by Allen Buchanan and coauthors, a book by four prominent bioethicists that is critical of the disability rights movement. One set of factors involves the nature of disability and impairment. A second set involves presumptions regarding social values, including the importance of intelligence in relation to other human (...) characteristics, competition as the basis of social organization, and the nature of the parent–child relationship. The authors’ disapproval of certain aspects of the disability rights movement can be seen to be associated with particular positions regarding these factors. Although the authors intend to use a method of ‘broad reflective equilibrium,’ we argue that their idiosyncratic commitment to particular concepts of disability and particular social values produces a narrowing of the moral significance of their conclusions regarding disability rights. (shrink)
Robert Cummins has recently used the program of Clark Hull to illustrate the effects of logical positivist epistemology upon psychological theory. On Cummins's account, Hull's theory is best understood as a functional analysis, rather than a nomological subsumption. Hull's commitment to the logical positivist view of explanation is said to have blinded him to this aspect of this theory, and thus restricted its scope. We will argue that this interpretation of Hull's epistemology, though common, is mistaken. Hull's epistemological views were (...) developed independently of, and in considerable contrast to, the principles of logical positivism. (shrink)
Professor Elizabeth Barnes has produced a tightly and carefully reasoned philosophical examination of the significance of disability. It provides a clear defense of certain core principles of the disability rights movement in contrast to the many professional philosophers who consider that movement to be ill-conceived. An example of this tradition can be seen in the volume From Choice to Chance: Genetics and Justice, coauthored by four of the most prominent bioethicists of the turn of the century. I confess to the (...) prejudice implied by my label of 'mainstream... (shrink)
During the early part of the 20th century most embryologists were skeptical about the significance of Mendelian genetics to embryological development. A few embryologists began to study the developmental effects of Mendelian genes around 1940. Such work was a necessary step on the path to modern developmental biology. It occurred during the time when the Evolutionary Synthesis was integrating Mendelian and population genetics into a unified evolutionary theory. Why did the first embryological geneticists begin their study at that particular time? (...) One possible explanation is that developmental genetics was a potential avenue of alliance between embryology and evolutionary biology, two fields that had been separated since the 1890s. To assess this possible motive it is necessary to explore the methodological contrasts that obtained between embryology and both Mendelian-chromosomal genetics and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. Some of these contrasts persist to the present day. (shrink)
This chapter contains section titled: Introduction The Nineteenth Century: Evolution Intertwined with Development The Twentieth Century: A New Heredity Gives Rise to a New Evolution The Nature of Developmentalist Explanation: 1920–80 Adaptationism and the Synthesis Direct Debates A Torrent of Homologous Genes What Now? Acknowledgements References Further Reading.
This article reviews the recent reissuing of Richard Owen’s On the Nature of Limbs and its three novel, introductory essays. These essays make Owen’s 1849 text very accessible by discussing the historical context of his work and explaining how Owen’s ideas relate to his larger intellectual framework. In addition to the ways in which the essays point to Owen’s relevance for contemporary biology, I discuss how Owen’s unity of type theory and his homology claims about ﬁns and limbs compare with (...) modern views. While the phenomena studied by Owen are nowadays of major interest to evolutionary developmental biology, research in evo-devo has largely shifted from homology (which was Owen’s concern) towards evolutionary novelty, e.g., accounting for ﬁns as a novelty. Still, I argue that questions about homology are important and raise challenges even for explanations of novelty. (shrink)
The conventionalist epistemology of cultural anthropology can be seen to be embedded in the methods of 'cognitive anthropology', the study of folk conceptual systems. These methods result in indiscriminately depicting all folk systems as conventional, whether or not the systems are intended by the native to represent objective features of the world. Hypothetical and actual ethnographic situations are discussed. It is concluded that the anthropologist's projection of his/her own epistemology onto a native system is ethnocentric. This epistemological prejudice may be (...) peculiar to the cognitive sciences. (shrink)