David Haig propounds and illustrates the unity of a radically revised set of definitions of the family of terms at the heart of philosophy of cognitive science and mind: information, meaning, interpretation, text, choice, possibility, cause. This biological re-grounding of much-debated concepts yields a bounty of insights into the nature of meaning and life. An interpreter is a mechanism that uses information in choice. The capabilities of the interpreter couple an entropy of inputs to an entropy of outputs is (...) dispelled by observation. The second entropy is dispelled. I propose that an interpreter’s response to inputs meaning of the information for the interpreter. In this conceptual framework, the mechanisms of interpreters provide the much-debated link between Shannon information and semantics. (shrink)
Abstract Gene-selectionists define fundamental terms in non-standard ways. Genes are determinants of difference. Phenotypes are defined as a gene’s effects relative to some alternative whereas the environment is defined as all parts of the world that are shared by the alternatives being compared. Environments choose among phenotypes and thereby choose among genes. By this process, successful gene sequences become stores of information about what works in the environment. The strategic gene is defined as a set of gene tokens that combines (...) ‘actor’ tokens responsible for an effect with ‘recipient’ tokens whose replication is thereby enhanced. This set of tokens can extend across the boundaries of individual organisms, or other levels of selection, as these are traditionally defined. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-19 DOI 10.1007/s10539-012-9315-5 Authors David Haig, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867. (shrink)
August Weismann rejected the inheritance of acquired characters on the grounds that changes to the soma cannot produce the kind of changes to the germ-plasm that would result in the altered character being transmitted to subsequent generations. His intended distinction, between germ-plasm and soma, was closer to the modern distinction between genotype and phenotype than to the modern distinction between germ cells and somatic cells. Recently, systems of epigenetic inheritance have been claimed to make possible the inheritance of acquired characters. (...) I argue that the sense in which these claims are true does not challenge fundamental tenets of neo-Darwinism. Epigenetic inheritance expands the range of options available to genes but evolutionary adaptation remains the product of natural selection of ‘random’ variation. (shrink)
Proximate and ultimate causes in evolutionary biology have come to conflate two distinctions. The first is a distinction between immediate and historical causes. The second is between explanations of mechanism and adaptive function. Mayr emphasized the first distinction but many evolutionary biologists use proximate and ultimate causes to refer to the second. I recommend that ‘ultimate cause’ be abandoned as ambiguous.
Organisms can be treated as optimizers when there is consensus among their genes about what is best to be done, but genomic consensus is often lacking, especially in interactions among kin because kin share some genes but not others. Grafen adopts a majoritarian perspective in which an individual’s interests are identified with the interests of the largest coreplicon of its genome, but genomic imprinting and recombination factionalize the genome so that no faction may predominate in some interactions among kin. Once (...) intragenomic conflicts are recognized, the individual organism can be conceptualized as an arbiter among competing interests within a collective. Organismal adaptation can be recognized without phenotypes being optimized. (shrink)
Organisms and their genomes are mosaics of features of different evolutionary age. Older features are maintained by ‘negative’ selection and comprise part of the selective environment that has shaped the evolution of newer features by ‘positive’ selection. Body plans and body parts are among the most conservative elements of the environment in which genetic differences are selected. By this process, well-trodden paths of development constrain and direct paths of evolutionary change. Structuralism and adaptationism are both vindicated. Form plays a selective (...) role in the molding of form. (shrink)
Concepts of cause, choice, and information are closely related. A cause is a choice that can be held responsible. It is a difference that makes a difference. Information about past causes and their effects is a valuable commodity because it can be used to guide future choices. Information about criteria of choice is generated by choosing a subset from an ensemble for ‘reasons’ and has meaning for an interpreter when it is used to achieve an end. Natural selection evolves interpreters (...) with ends. Surviving genes embody a textual record of past choices that had favorable outcomes. Consultation of these archives guides current choices. Purposive choice is well-informed difference making. (shrink)
In recent times evolutionary psychologists have offered adaptation explanations for a wide range of human psychological characteristics. Critics, however, have argued that such endeavors are problematic because the appropriate evidence required to demonstrate adaptation is unlikely to be forthcoming, therefore severely limiting the role of the adaptationist program in psychology. More specifically, doubts have been raised over both the methodology employed by evolutionary psychologists for studying adaptations and about the possibility of ever developing acceptably rigorous evolutionary explanations of human psychological (...) phenomena. We argue that by employing a wide range of methods for inferring adaptation and by adopting an inference to the best explanation strategy for evaluating adaptation explanations, these two doubts can be adequately addressed. We illustrate how this approach can be fruitfully employed in evaluating claims about the evolutionary origins of language, and conclude with a brief discussion of the future of evolutionary psychology. (shrink)
Mitochondria exist in large numbers per cell. Therefore, the strength of natural selection on individual mtDNAs for their contribution to cellular fitness is weak whereas the strength of selection in favor of mtDNAs that increase their own replication without regard for cellular functions is strong. This problem has been solved for most mitochondrial genes by their transfer to the nucleus but a few critical genes remain encoded by mtDNA. Organisms manage the evolution of mtDNA to prevent mutational decay of essential (...) services mitochondria provide to their hosts. Bottlenecks of mitochondrial numbers in female germlines increase the homogeneity of mtDNAs within cells and allow intraorganismal selection to eliminate cells with low quality mitochondria. Mechanisms of intracellular “quality control” allow direct selection on the competence of individual mtDNAs. These processes maintain the integrity of mtDNAs within the germline but are inadequate to indefinitely maintain mitochondrial function in somatic cells. (shrink)
Asay (2018) criticizes our contention that psychologists do best to adhere to a substantive theory of correspondence truth. He argues that deflationary theory can serve the same purposes as correspondence theory. In the present article we argue that (a) scientific realism, broadly construed, requires a version of correspondence theory and (b) contrary to Asay’s suggestion, correspondence theory does have important additional resources over deflationary accounts in its ability to support generalizations over classes of true sentences.
Imprinted genes are predicted to affect interactions among relatives. Therefore, variant alleles at imprinted loci are promising candidates for playing a causal role in disorders of social behavior. The effects of imprinted genes evolved in the context of patterns of asymmetric relatedness that existed within social groups of our ancestors.
Andrews et al. effectively argue that, despite prominent criticism, adaptationism can be a viable research strategy. We agree. In our complementary commentary, we discuss the neglected method of inference to the best explanation and argue that it is a valuable addition to the adaptationist's methodological practice.
In the Sleeping Beauty problem, Beauty is woken once if a coin lands heads or twice if the coin lands tails but promptly forgets each waking on returning to sleep. Philosophers have divided over whether her waking credence in heads should be a half or a third. Beauty has centered beliefs about her world and about her location in that world. When given new information about her location she should update her worldly beliefs before updating her locative beliefs. When she (...) conditionalizes in this way, her credence in heads is a half before and after being told it is Monday. In applications of Dutch Book arguments to the Sleeping Beauty problem, the probability of a particular outcome has often been confounded with consequences of that outcome. Heads and tails are equally likely but twice as much is at stake if the coin falls tails because Beauty is fated to make the same choice twice. As a consequence, the possibility of tails should be given twice the weight of the possibility of heads when deciding whether to bet on heads even though heads and tails are equally likely. (shrink)
Chow's endorsement of a limited role for null hypothesis significance testing is a needed corrective of research malpractice, but his decision to place this procedure in a hypothetico-deductive framework of Popperian cast is unwise. Various failures of this version of the hypothetico-deductive method have negative implications for Chow's treatment of significance testing, meta-analysis, and theory evaluation.
Transformations of Lamarckism is an edited volume arising from a workshop to commemorate the bicentenary of the publication of Philosophie Zoologique. The contributed chapters discuss the history of Lamarckism, present new developments in biology that could be considered to vindicate Lamarck, and argue for a revision, if not a revolution, in evolutionary theory. My review argues that twentieth and twenty-first century conceptions of Lamarckism can be considered a reaction to August Weismann’s uncompromising rejection of the inheritance of acquired characters in (...) the late nineteenth century. Weismann rejected the inheritance of acquired characters both as a proximate mechanism of heredity and as an ultimate cause of adaptation. I argue that Weismann’s proximate claim is still valid for the kind of mechanism that he had in mind but that the inheritance of acquired characters has come to refer to many different processes, some of which undoubtedly do occur. However, processes of physiological adaptation and adaptive plasticity, even if transgenerational, do not challenge Weismann’s claim about the ultimate causes of adaptation because these processes can be understood as evolving by natural selection. Finally, I discuss some of the emotional and aesthetic reasons why many find Lamarckism an attractive alternative to hard-core neo-Darwinism. (shrink)
A major challenge for education policymakers and educators globally is the strong and persistent impact of student socio-economic status on learning. This is a challenge that will not be addressed solely by school-focused reform. However, one policy initiative that could make a positive difference in this regard, and could bring other benefits to schools and communities, is equipping schools to act as hubs for a range of social and health services for their students, families, and communities. Schools as community hubs (...) can not only act to mitigate the impact of poverty on learners, but can position schools at the centre of communities, and build community resilience and capacity. (shrink)
Phillips & Silverstein's focus on schizophrenia as a failure of “cognitive coordination” is welcome. They note that a simple hypothesis of reduced Gamma synchronisation subserving impaired coordination does not fully account for recent observations. We suggest that schizophrenia reflects a dynamic compensation to a core deficit of coordination, expressed either as hyper- or hyposynchronisation, with neurotransmitter systems and arousal as modulatory mechanisms.
The germ track is the cellular path by which genes are transmitted to future generations whereas somatic cells die with their body and do not leave direct descendants. Transposable elements (TEs) evolve to be silent in somatic cells but active in the germ track. Thus, the performance of most bodily functions by a sequestered soma reduces organismal costs of TEs. Flexible forms of gene regulation are permissible in the soma because of the self‐imposed silence of TEs, but strict licensing of (...) transcription and translation is maintained in the germ track to control proliferation of TEs. Delayed zygotic genome activation (ZGA) and maternally inherited germ granules are adaptations that enhance germ‐track security. Mammalian embryos exhibit very early ZGA associated with extensive mobilization of retroelements. This window of vulnerability to retrotransposition in early embryos is an indirect consequence of evolutionary conflicts within the mammalian genome over postzygotic maternal provisioning. (shrink)
Cramer et al. make a good case for reconceptualizing comorbid psychopathologies in terms of complex network theory. We suggest the need for an extension of their network model to include reference to latent causes. We also draw attention to a neglected approach to theory appraisal that might usefully be incorporated into the methodology of network theory.
The Philosophy of Quantitative Methods undertakes a philosophical examination of a number of important quantitative research methods within the behavioral sciences in order to overcome the non-critical approaches typically provided by textbooks. These research methods are exploratory data analysis, statistical significance testing, Bayesian confirmation theory and statistics, meta-analysis, and exploratory factor analysis. Further readings are provided to extend the reader's overall understanding of these methods.
This paper responds to the essay reviews by David Haig, Alan Love and Rachel Brown of my recently published book “Homology, Genes and Evolutionary Innovation”. The issues addressed here relate to: the notion of classes and individuals, issues of explanatory value of adaptive and structuralist explanations in evolutionary biology, the role of homology in evolutionary theory, the limits of a pluralist stance vis a vis alternative explanations of homology, as well as the question whether and to what extend the (...) perspective laid out in HGEI can be or should be transferred to other branches of study, like comparative behavioral biology. (shrink)
In responding to three reviews of Evolution in Four Dimensions (Jablonka and Lamb, 2005, MIT Press), we briefly consider the historical background to the present genecentred view of evolution, especially the way in which Weismann’s theories have influenced it, and discuss the origins of the notion of epigenetic inheritance. We reaffirm our belief that all types of hereditary information—genetic, epigenetic, behavioural and cultural—have contributed to evolutionary change, and outline recent evidence, mainly from epigenetic studies, that suggests that non-DNA heritable variations (...) are not rare and can be quite stable. We describe ways in which such variations may have influenced evolution. The approach we take leads to broader definitions of terms such as ‘units of heredity’, ‘units of evolution’, and ‘units of selection’, and we maintain that ‘information’ can be a useful concept if it is defined in terms of its effects on the receiver. Although we agree that evolutionary theory is not undergoing a Kuhnian revolution, the incorporation of new data and ideas about hereditary variation, and about the role of development in generating it, is leading to a version of Darwinism that is very different from the gene-centred one that dominated evolutionary thinking in the second half of the twentieth century. (shrink)