The early evolutionary history of echinoderms was reconstructed on the basis of structural-functional considerations and application of the quasi-engineering approach of ‘Konstruktions-Morphologie’. According to the presented evolutionaryscenario, a bilaterally symmetrical ancestor, such as an enteropneust-like organism, became gradually modified into a pentaradial echinoderm by passing through an intermediate pterobranch-like stage. The arms of a pentaradial echinoderm are identified as hydraulic outgrowths from the central coelomic cavity of the bilateral ancestor which developed due to a shortening of (...) the body in length but widening in the diameter. The resulting pentaradial symmetry is a consequence of mechanical laws that dictate minimal contact surface areas among hydraulic pneumatic entities. These developed in the coelomic cavity (metacoel) in the bilaterally symmetrical ancestor, when from the already U-shaped mesentery with the intestinal tract two additional U-shaped bows developed directly or subsequently. During the subsequent development tensile chords of the mesentery ‘sewed’ the gut with the body wall first in three and secondly in five ‘seams’. During the direct development five ‘seams’ between tensile chords and body wall developed straightly. These internal tensile chords subdivide the body coelom into five hydraulic subsystems (‘pneus’), which eventually arrange in a pentaradial pattern. The body could then enlarge only between the tensile chords, which means that five hydraulic bulges developed. These bulges initially supported the tentacles and finally each of them enclosed the tentacle until only the feather-like appendages of the tentacles projected over the surface. The tentacles with their feathers were transformedinto the ambulacral system, and the bulges become the arms. These morphological transformations were accompanied and partly determined by specific histological modifications, such as the development of mutable connective tissues and skeletal elements that fused to ossicles and provided shape stabilization in form of a calcareous skeleton in the body wall. The organism resulted was an ancestral echinoderm (‘Ur-Echinoderm’) with an enlarged metacoel, stabilized by hydraulic pressure working againsta capsule of mutable connective tissue, skeletal elements and longitudinal muscles. In regard to these reconstructions, the body structure of echinoderms can be understood as a hydraulic skeletal capsule. (shrink)
In order to solve problems, humans are able to synthesize apparently unrelated concepts, take advantage of serendipitous opportunities, hypothesize, invent, and engage in other similarly abstract and creative activities, primarily through the use of their visual systems. In _Scenario Visualization_, Robert Arp offers an evolutionary account of the unique human ability to solve nonroutine vision-related problems. He argues that by the close of the Pleistocene epoch, humans evolved a conscious creative problem-solving capacity, which he terms scenario visualization, that (...) enabled them to outlive other hominid species and populate the planet. Arp shows that the evidence for scenario visualization -- by which images are selected, integrated, and then transformed and projected into visual scenarios -- can be found in the kinds of complex tools our hominid ancestors invented in order to survive in the ever-changing environments of the Pleistocene world. Arp also argues that this conscious capacity shares an analogous affinity with neurobiological processes of selectivity and integration in the visual system, and that similar processes can be found in the activities of organisms in general. The evolution of these processes, he writes, helps account for the modern-day conscious ability of humans to use visual information to solve nonroutine problems creatively in their environments. Arp's account of scenario visualization and its emergence in evolutionary history suggests an answer to two basic questions asked by philosophers and biologists concerning human nature: why we are unique; and how we got that way. Robert Arp is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the National Center for Biomedical Ontology. His areas of specialization include philosophy of biology and philosophy of mind. He is the author of numerous articles and the forthcoming An Integrated Approach to the Philosophy of Mind. (shrink)
In this paper, I give an account of how our hominin ancestors evolved a conscious ability I call scenario visualization that enabled them to manufacture novel tools so as to survive and flourish in the ever-changing and complex environments in which they lived. I first present the ideas and arguments put forward by evolutionary psychologists that the mind evolved certain mental capacities as adaptive responses to environmental pressures. Specifically, Steven Mithen thinks that the mind has evolved cognitive fluidity, (...) viz., an ability to exchange information flexibly between and among mental modules. Showing the deficiency in Mithen’s view, I then argue that the flexible exchange of information between and among modules together with scenario visualization is what explains the ability to construct the novel tools needed to survive and flourish in the environments in which our hominin ancestors resided. Finally, I trace the development of the multi-purposed javelin, from its meager beginnings as a stick, in order to illustrate scenario visualization in novel tool manufacturing. (shrink)
The idea of genetic assimilation, that environmentally induced phenotypes may become genetically fixed and no longer require the original environmental stimulus, has had varied success through time in evolutionary biology research. Proposed by Waddington in the 1940s, it became an area of active empirical research mostly thanks to the efforts of its inventor and his collaborators. It was then attacked as of minor importance during the ‘‘hardening’’ of the neo-Darwinian synthesis and was relegated to a secondary role for decades. (...) Recently, several papers have appeared, mostly independently of each other, to explore the likelihood of genetic assimilation as a biological phenomenon and its potential importance to our understanding of evolution. In this article we briefly trace the history of the concept and then discuss theoretical models that have newly employed genetic assimilation in a variety of contexts. We propose a typical scenario of evolution of genetic assimilation via an intermediate stage of phenotypic plasticity and present potential examples of the same. We also discuss a conceptual map of current and future lines of research aimed at exploring the actual relevance of genetic assimilation for evolutionary biology. (shrink)
One of the major developments in cancer research in recent years has been the construction of models that treat cancer as a cellular population subject to natural selection. We expand on this idea, drawing upon multilevel selection theory. Cancer is best understood in our view from a multilevel perspective, as both a by-product of selection at other levels of organization, and as subject to selection at several levels of organization. Cancer is a by-product in two senses. First, cancer cells co-opt (...) signaling pathways that are otherwise adaptive at the organismic level. Second, cancer is also a by-product of features distinctive to the metazoan lineage: cellular plasticity and modularity. Applying the multilevel perspective in this way permits one to explain transitions in complexity and individuality in cancer progression. Our argument is a reply to Germain’s scepticism towards the explanatory relevance of natural selection for cancer. The extent to which cancer fulfills the conditions for being a paradigmatic Darwinian population depends on the scale of analysis, and the details of the purported selective scenario. Taking a multilevel perspective clarifies some of the complexities surrounding how to best understand the relevance of evolutionary thinking in cancer progression. (shrink)
In this paper, I first present the ideas and arguments put forward by evolutionary psychologists that humans evolved certain capacities to creatively problem solve. Specifically, Steven Mithen thinks that creative problem solving is possible because the mind has evolved a conscious capacity he calls cognitive fluidity, the flexible exchange of information between and among mental modules. While I agree with Mithen that cognitive fluidity acts as a necessary condition for creative problem solving, I disagree that cognitive fluidity alone will (...) suffice for such an activity. I argue further that the flexible exchange of information between and among modules, as well as what I call scenario visualization - a conscious ability to segregate and integrate visual images in future scenarios - evolved in our species and accounts for certain kinds of creative problem solving. (shrink)
Evolution is littered with paraphyletic convergences: many roads lead to functional Romes. We propose here another example - an equivalence class structure factoring the broad realm of possible realizations of the Baars Global Workspace consciousness model. The construction suggests many different physiological systems can support rapidly shifting, sometimes highly tunable, temporary assemblages of interacting unconscious cognitive modules. The discovery implies various animal taxa exhibiting behaviors we broadly recognize as conscious are, in fact, simply expressing different forms of the same underlying (...) phenomenon. Mathematically, we find much slower, and even multiple simultaneous, versions of the basic structure can operate over very long timescales, a kind of paraconsciousness often ascribed to group phenomena. The variety of possibilities, a veritable rainbow, suggests minds today may be only a small surviving fraction of ancient evolutionary radiations - bush phylogenies of consciousness and paraconsciousness. Under this scenario, the resulting diversity was subsequently pruned by selection and chance extinction. Though few traces of the radiation may be found in the direct fossil record, exaptations and vestiges are scattered across the living mind. Humans, for instance, display an uncommonly profound synergism between individual consciousness and their embedding cultural heritages, enabling efficient Lamarkian adaptation. (shrink)
Robot enthusiasts envision robots will become a “race unto themselves” as they cohabit with the humankind one day. Profound questions arise surrounding one of the major areas of research in the contemporary world—that concerning artificial intelligence. Fascination and anxiety that androids impose upon us hinges on how we come to conceive of the “Cultural Other.” Applying the notion of the “other” in multicultural research process, we will explore how the “Other” has been used to illustrate values and theories about robots, (...) as a mirror for the self. In this paper, we focus on the social, cultural, and religious implications of humans’ attitudes toward relationships between humans with robots. Six major views on humanoid robots are proposed: (1) robots as the “Frightening Other,” (2) robots as the “Subhuman Other,” (3) robots as the “Human Substitute,” (4) robots as the “Sentient Other,” (5) robots as the “Divine Other,” and (6) robots as the “Co-evolutionary Path to Immortality.” The likely and preferable scenario is the last one, which is compatible with an optimistic posthuman world in our evolutionary future. We imagine whether humans will meet the challenge of loving all living and non-living beings (including mechanical entities) might be the key to the co-evolution of both species and the ultimate happiness. (shrink)
Norms have a strong influence on human social interactions, but the emotions and actions associated with norm-breaking events have not been systematically studied. We asked subjects to imagine themselves in a conflict situation and then to report how they would feel, how they would act, and how they would imagine the feelings and actions of their opponent. By altering the fictional scenario that they were asked to imagine (weak vs. strong norm) and the perspective of the subject (norm-breaker vs. (...) the one whose norm has been violated), the emotions and actions associated with norm-breaking events could be examined. We tested the following hypotheses: (1) norms create emotional asymmetries that resolve conflicts in otherwise symmetrical contest situations; (2) sex differences exist in response to norm-breaking events, with males more prone to violence than females; (3) individual differences exist in response to norm-breaking events, along the lines predicted by theoretical models; and (4) emotions and actions attributed to one’s opponent are distorted in ways that can be interpreted as adaptive for the believer. In addition to these basic hypotheses, we address more subtle issues concerning the particular emotions provoked by norm-breaking events, the degree to which emotional response is fine-tuned to the situation, and the degree to which emotional response correlates with anticipated behavioral response. We discuss the relevance of our study to the general study of emotions and the use of fictional scenarios as a research method in addition to the study of norms from an evolutionary perspective. (shrink)
What are the evolutionary scenarios of academic capitalism, able to deliver an ever more strategic knowledge, with a high added value within the global society? Under the current system of knowledge economy, characterized, at the beginning of this third millennium, by strong hyper-complexity, the challenge for the society evolution toward a sustainable world, full of varieties and opportunities, is the development of a form of capitalism able to guide and facilitate the reshaping of society through self-organizing systems (Lazslo 2011) (...) the academic capitalism as a form of functional capitalism, the difference that makes the knowledge considered at a systemic level. (shrink)
Evidence shows that knowledge concerning medicinal plants is heterogeneous, as the majority of people in a medical system know only a few plants. This heterogeneity may make sense from an adaptive viewpoint, as human beings tend to keep a small set of information that offers adaptive advantages because our brains can store limited amounts of data. From this scenario, we developed the structural core concept for medical systems: a group of medicinal plants with adaptive characteristics that affect the structure (...) and function of medical systems. We created a set of hypotheses based on the structural core concept to guide future studies investigating the structure and dynamics of local medical systems. Concerning the dynamics of medical systems, we suggest that the structural core is the part of the system that changes least over time, i.e., it is the most conservative. Thus, we can expect that species substitution events mainly occur outside of the structural core. From the medical system structure, we indicate that core plants tend to be favored in the transmission of knowledge. These plants also serve as a model for the selection of novel medicinal plants and are therefore an important factor for the medical system structure. Analysis of the structural core can help the understanding of the structure and dynamics of medical systems and can aid future bioprospecting studies, which can search for plants with pharmacological potential using the structural core. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments start with a premise about the influence of evolutionary forces on our evaluative beliefs, and conclude that we are not justified in those beliefs. The value realist holds that there are attitude-independent evaluative truths. But the debunker argues that we have no reason to think that the evolutionary forces that shaped human evaluative attitudes would track those truths. Worse yet, we seem to have a good reason to think that they wouldn’t: evolution selects for (...) characteristics that increase genetic fitness—not ones that correlate with the evaluative truth. Plausibly, the attitudes and judgments that increase a creature’s fitness come apart from the true evaluative beliefs. My aim in this paper is to show that no plausible evolutionary debunking argument can both have force against the value realist and not collapse into a more general skeptical argument. I conclude that there is little hope for evolutionary debunking arguments. This is bad news for the debunker who hoped that the cold, hard scientific facts about our origins would debunk our evaluative beliefs. And it is good news for the realist. (shrink)
This target article presents a plausible evolutionaryscenario for the emergence of the neural preconditions for language in the hominid lineage. In pleistocene primate lineages there was a paired evolutionary expansion of frontal and parietal neocortex (through certain well-documented adaptive changes associated with manipulative behaviors) resulting, in ancestral hominids, in an incipient Broca's region and in a configurationally unique junction of the parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes of the brain (the POT). On our view, the development of (...) the POT in our ancestors resulted in the neuroanatomical substrate consistent with the ability for representations in modality-neutral association cortex and, as a result of structure-imposing interaction with Broca's area, the hierarchically structured Evidence from paleoneurology and comparative primate neuroanatomy is used to argue that Homo habilis (2.5–2 million years ago) was the first hominid to have the appropriate gross neuroanatomical configuration to support conceptual structure. We thus suggest that the neural preconditions for language are met in H. habilis. Finally, we advocate a theory of language acquisition that uses conceptual structure as input to the learning procedures, thus bridging the gap between it and language. (shrink)
This paper is a continuation of a discussion with Ernan McMullin; its topic is the question how theists (in particular, Christian theists) should think about modern science---the whole range of modern science, including economics, psychology, sociobiology and so on. Should they follow Augustine in thinking that many large scale scientific projects as well as intellectual projects generally are in the service of one or the other of the civitates? Or should they follow Duhem, who (at least in the case of (...) physics) held that proper science is independent of metaphysical, theological or (broadly) religious concerns? The focus of the discussion is biology; I support the Augustinian line of thought, while McMullin is more inclined to the Duhemian. I conclude by defending the idea that the epistemic probability of the Grand EvolutionaryScenario on Christian theism together with the empirical evidence is somewhat less than 1/2. (shrink)
A hypothetical evolutionaryscenario is offered meant to account for the emergence of mental selves. According to the scenario, mental selves are constructed to solve a source-attribution problem. They emerge when internally generated mental contents are treated like messages arising from external personal sources. As a result, mental contents becomes attributed to the self as an internal personal source. According to this view, subjectivity is construed outward-in, that is, one's own mental self is derived from, and is (...) secondary to, the mental selves perceived in others. The social construction of subjectivity and selfhood relies on, and is maintained in, various discourses on subjectivity. (shrink)
Wilkins & Wakefield assign importance to motor systems but skip from anatomy to cognitive structure with little attention to behavior. Organisms, no matter how sophisticated, that do not behave in accord with what they know will fall by the evolutionary wayside. Facts about behavior can supplement the authors' theory, whose hierarchical structures can accommodate an evolutionaryscenario in which a million years or more of functionally varied utterances mainly limited to single words is followed by an explosion (...) of linguistic diversity with the development in the last 50,000 years or so of syntactically organized multiple word utterances. (shrink)
Identifying objects as members of ontological domains activates category-specific processes. There is evidence that these processes include particular ways of “tracking” substances and could do all the “tracking” necessary for concept acquisition. There may be no functional need or evolutionaryscenario for a general tracking capacity of the kind described by Millikan.
This article explores the role of social factors in the emergence of self and other. It is suggested that the experience of causing actions contributes to a basic sense of self in which awareness of mental states and the experience of a mental self are grounded. According to the proposed evolutionaryscenario, the experience of agency emerged as individuals acting in social context learned to differentiate between effects caused by their own actions and effects resulting from joint action. (...) Through joint action, individuals also developed an understanding of others' actions as goal-directed, paving the way for imitation. The ability to distinguish between action capabilities of self and other and the understanding that action-effect principles apply equally to self and other may have provided important advantages in circumstances where cooperative action and social learning were critical. The current proposal adds to previous evolutionary scenarios in that it identifies social conditions that may have shaped a basic sense of self. This, in turn, could have given rise to theory of mind and the cultural construction of mental selves. (shrink)
We commend Arbib for his original proposal that a mirror neuron system may have participated in language origins. However, in our view he proposes a complex evolutionaryscenario that could be more parsimonious. We see no necessity to propose a hand-based signing stage as ancestral to vocal communication. The prefrontal system involved in human speech may have its precursors in the monkey's inferior frontal cortical domain, which is responsive to vocalizations and is related to laryngeal control.
The evolutionaryscenario described in this target article parallels developmental patterns observed in human infants. Early vocalizations are largely expressive, manual control develops more rapidly than intentional vocal articulation, and vocal and manual activity are linked. In ontogenetic development, language is strongly rooted in bodily action and gesture.
We focus on two problems with the evolutionaryscenario proposed: (1) It bypasses the question of the origins of the communicative and semiotic features that make language distinct from, say, pleasant but meaningless sounds. (2) It does little to explain the absence of language in, for example, chimpanzees: Most of the selection pressures invoked apply just as strongly to chimps. We suggest how these problems could possibly be amended.
Consciousness is a central theme of Susanne Langer's three-volume work Mind: An essay on human feeling. Langer proposes an evolutionary history of consciousness in order to establish a biological vocabulary for discussing the subject. This vocabulary is based on the qualities of organic processes rather than generic material objects. Her historical scenario and new terminology suggest that Langer views the “cash value” of consciousness in terms of symbolic thinking and aesthetics. This paper provides an overview of Langer's proposed (...)evolutionaryscenario of consciousness, along with an examination of her process-oriented philosophy of mind. It is suggested that Langer's basic ideas are importantly similar to those present in dynamical systems theory. As research on consciousness in dynamical systems theory is still young, researchers in this field may find in Langer's work ideas for future exploration, particularly in its connection with aesthetics. (shrink)
Plan-ahead becomes necessary for those movements which are over-and-done in less time than it takes for the feedback loop to operate. Natural selection for one of the ballistic movements (hammering, clubbing, and throwing) could evolve a plan-ahead serial buffer for hand-arm commands that would benefit the other ballistic movements as well. This same circuitry may also sequence other muscles (children learning handwriting often screw up their faces and tongues) and so novel oral-facial sequences may also benefit (as might kicking and (...) dancing). An elaborated version of the sequencer may constitute a Darwin Machine that spins scenarios, evolves sentences, and facilitates insight by offline simulation. An example is given of an evolutionaryscenario from an apelike ancestor, demonstrating the transition behaviors and growth curve considerations that any such theory needs to have; this particular scenario (involving throwing improvements) also suggests an explanation for the puzzling design of the Acheulean "handaxe.". (shrink)
I begin with the definition of power, and find that it is finalistic inasmuch as work directs energy dissipation in the interests of some system. The maximum power principle of Lotka and Odum implies an optimal energy efficiency for any work; optima are also finalities. I advance a statement of the maximum entropy production principle, suggesting that most work of dissipative structures is carried out at rates entailing energy flows faster than those that would associate with maximum power. This is (...) finalistic in the sense that the out-of-equilibrium universe, taken as an isolated system, entrains work in the interest of global thermodynamic equilibration. I posit an evolutionaryscenario, with a development on Earth from abiotic times, when promoting convective energy flows could be viewed as the important function of dissipative structures, to biotic times when the preservation of living dissipative structures was added to the teleology. Dissipative structures are required by the equilibrating universe to enhance local energy gradient dissipation. (shrink)
In this commentary, I ask three specific questions: (1) Why would a juvenile stage be maintained in humans? (2) What could be a satisfactory evolutionaryscenario explaining the features of feminine speech? And (3), what could be the contribution of sexual selection in the elicitation of higher informational contents in communicative signals?
The target article about the origin and evolution of the isocortex triggers questions about unresolved issues that still need to be dealt with, including: (1) the evolutionaryscenario of the origin of the lateral isocortex, (2) the expansion of the dorsal pallium in nonmammals, and (3) the heterogeneity of the anterior dorsal ventricular ridge.
Evolutionary debunking arguments move from a premise about the influence of evolutionary forces on our moral beliefs to a skeptical conclusion about those beliefs. My primary aim is to clarify this empirically grounded epistemological challenge. I begin by distinguishing among importantly different sorts of epistemological attacks. I then demonstrate that instances of each appear in the literature under the ‘evolutionary debunking’ title. Distinguishing them clears up some confusions and helps us better understand the structure and potential of (...)evolutionary debunking arguments. (shrink)
It is commonly suggested that evolutionary considerations generate an epistemological challenge for moral realism. At first approximation, the challenge for the moral realist is to explain our having many true moral beliefs, given that those beliefs are the products of evolutionary forces that would be indifferent to the moral truth. An important question surrounding this challenge is the extent to which it generalizes. In particular, it is of interest whether the Evolutionary Challenge for moral realism is equally (...) a challenge for mathematical realism. It is widely thought not to be. In this paper, I argue that the Evolutionary Challenge for moral realism is equally a challenge for mathematical realism. Along the way, I substantially clarify the Evolutionary Challenge, discuss its relation to more familiar epistemological challenges, and broach a number of foundational issues in metaphysics. The paper should be of interest to ethicists because it places pressure on anyone who rejects moral realism on the basis of the Evolutionary Challenge to reject mathematical realism as well. And the paper should be of interest to philosophers of mathematics because it presents a new epistemological challenge for mathematical realism that bears, I argue, no simple relation to Paul Benacerraf's familiar challenge. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunkers of morality hold this thesis: If S’s moral belief that P can be given an evolutionary explanation, then S’s moral belief that P is not knowledge. In this paper, I debunk a variety of arguments for this thesis. I first sketch a possible evolutionary explanation for some human moral beliefs. Next, I explain how, given a reliabilist approach to warrant, my account implies that humans possess moral knowledge. Finally, I examine the debunking arguments of Michael (...) Ruse, Sharon Street, and Richard Joyce. I draw on the account of moral knowledge sketched earlier to illustrate how these arguments fail. -/- . (shrink)
Evolutionary ethics (EE) is a branch of philosophy that arouses both fascination and deep suspicion. It claims that Darwinian mechanisms and evolutionary data on animal sociality are relevant to ethical reflection. This field of study is often misunderstood and rarely fails to conjure up images of Social Darwinism as a vector for nasty ideologies and policies. However, it is worth resisting the temptation to reduce EE to Social Darwinism and developing an objective analysis of whether it is appropriate (...) to adopt an evolutionary approach in ethics. The purpose of this article is to ‘dedemonise’ EE while exploring its limits. I shall begin by presenting two ways of integrating a Darwinian way of thinking into the context of social and political sciences : Social Darwinism and what one could label ‘Pro-social Darwinism’. Next I will point out some of the fundamental errors on which Social Darwinism is grounded; this will help in understanding why contemporary evolutionary ethicists cannot possibly hold the views defended by this theory (unless they are inclined to intellectual dishonesty). On the contrary, EE seems more akin to a Pro-social Darwinian approach, except for the fact that it restricts its reflections to theoretical ethics. The second part of the paper (sections 3 to 7) provides a clear and detailed picture of EE as well as an analysis of its relevance at the different levels of ethics (descriptive, meta-, normative and practical). Special focus will be given to questions relating to the genesis of morals and the delicate shift from facts to norms. (shrink)
The Narrow Evolutionary Psychology Movement represents itself as a major reorientation of the social/behavioral sciences, a group of sciences previously dominated by something called the ‘Standard Social Science Model’. Narrow Evolutionary Psychology alleges that the SSSM treated the mind, and particularly those aspects of the mind that exhibit cultural variation, as devoid of any marks of its evolutionary history. Adherents of Narrow Evolutionary Psychology often suggest that the SSSM owed more to ideology than to evidence. It (...) was the child of the 1960s, representing a politically motivated insistence on the possibility of changing social arrangements such as gender roles: " ‘Not so long ago jealousy was considered a pointless, archaic institution in need of reform. But like other denials of human nature from the 1960s, this bromide has not aged well.’ ) " This view of history does not ring true to those, like the authors, who have worked in traditions of evolutionary theorizing about the mind that have a continuous history through the 1960s and beyond: traditions such as evolutionary epistemology and psychoevolutionary research into emotion (Griffiths. (shrink)
I argue that Evolutionary Psychologists’ notion of adaptationism is closest to what Peter Godfrey-Smith (2001) calls explanatory adaptationism and as a result, is not a good organizing principle for research in the biology of human behavior. I also argue that adopting an alternate notion of adaptationism presents much more explanatory resources to the biology of human behavior. I proceed by introducing Evolutionary Psychology and giving some examples of alternative approaches to the biological explanation of human behavior. Next I (...) characterize adaptation and explain the range of biological phenomena that can count as adaptations. I go onto introduce the range of adaptationist views that have been distinguished by philosophers of biology and lay out explanatory adaptationism in detail. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo) is a loose conglomeration of research programs in the life sciences with two main axes: (a) the evolution of development, or inquiry into the pattern and processes of how ontogeny varies and changes over time; and, (b) the developmental basis of evolution, or inquiry into the causal impact of ontogenetic processes on evolutionary trajectories—both in terms of constraint and facilitation. Philosophical issues are found along both axes surrounding concepts such as evolvability, novelty, and modularity. (...) The developmental basis of evolution has garnered much attention because it speaks to the possibility of revising a standard construal of evolutionary theory, but the evolution of development harbors its own conceptual questions. This article addresses the heterogeneity of Evo-devo’s conglomerate structure (including disagreements over its individuation), as well as the concepts and controversies of philosophical interest pertaining to the evolution of development and the developmental basis of evolution. Future research will benefit from a shift away from global theorizing toward the scientific practices of Evo-devo. (shrink)
Evolutionary theory is undergoing an intense period of discussion and reevaluation. This, contrary to the misleading claims of creationists and other pseudoscientists, is no harbinger of a crisis but rather the opposite: the field is expanding dramatically in terms of both empirical discoveries and new ideas. In this essay I briefly trace the conceptual history of evolutionary theory from Darwinism to neo-Darwinism, and from the Modern Synthesis to what I refer to as the Extended Synthesis, a more inclusive (...) conceptual framework containing among others evo–devo, an expanded theory of heredity, elements of complexity theory, ideas about evolvability, and a reevaluation of levels of selection. I argue that evolutionary biology has never seen a paradigm shift, in the philosophical sense of the term, except when it moved from natural theology to empirical science in the middle of the 19th century. The Extended Synthesis, accordingly, is an expansion of the Modern Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s, and one that—like its predecessor—will probably take decades to complete. (shrink)
The Modern Synthesis (MS) is the current paradigm in evolutionary biology. It was actually built by expanding on the conceptual foundations laid out by its predecessors, Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. For sometime now there has been talk of a new Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES), and this article begins to outline why we may need such an extension, and how it may come about. As philosopher Karl Popper has noticed, the current evolutionary theory is a theory of genes, and (...) we still lack a theory of forms. The field began, in fact, as a theory of forms in Darwin’s days, and the major goal that an EES will aim for is a unification of our theories of genes and of forms. This may be achieved through an organic grafting of novel concepts onto the foundational structure of the MS, particularly evolvability, phenotypic plasticity, epigenetic inheritance, complexity theory, and the theory of evolution in highly dimensional adaptive landscapes. (shrink)
There is a substantial literature on evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) in metaethics. According to these arguments, evolutionary explanations of our moral beliefs pose a significant problem for moral realism, specifically by committing the realist to an unattractive pessimism about the prospects of our having moral knowledge. In this paper, I argue that EDAs exploit an equivocation between two distinct readings of their central claim. One is plausibly true but has no epistemic relevance, and the other would have epistemic (...) consequences for realism, but is false. If I'm right, this undermines attempts to use evolutionary explanations to debunk belief in other domains too. (shrink)
The idea of phenotypic novelty appears throughout the evolutionary literature. Novelties have been defined so broadly as to make the term meaningless and so narrowly as to apply only to a limited number of spectacular structures. Here I examine some of the available definitions of phenotypic novelty and argue that the modern synthesis is ill equipped at explaining novelties. I then discuss three frameworks that may help biologists get a better insight of how novelties arise during evolution but warn (...) that these frameworks should be considered in addition to, and not as potential substitutes of, the modern synthesis. †To contact the author, please write to: Departments of Ecology and Evolution and Philosophy, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Making Sense of Evolution explores contemporary evolutionary biology, focusing on the elements of theories—selection, adaptation, and species—that are complex and open to multiple possible interpretations, many of which are incompatible with one another and with other accepted practices in the discipline. Particular experimental methods, for example, may demand one understanding of “selection,” while the application of the same concept to another area of evolutionary biology could necessitate a very different definition.
Van Fraassen (1980) claims that successful theories exist today because successful theories survive and unsuccessful ones die. Wray (2007, 2010) appeals to Stanford’s new pessimistic induction (2006), arguing that van Fraassen’s selectionist explanation is better than the realist explanation that successful theories exist because they are approximately true. I argue that if the pessimistic induction is correct, then the evolutionary explanation is neither true nor empirically adequate, and that realism is better than selectionism because realism explains more phenomena in (...) science than selectionism. (shrink)
Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they produce are true, rather than merely useful? We consider this problem for beliefs in three different domains: religion, morality, and commonsense and scientific claims about matters of empirical fact. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. One reply is that evolution can (...) be expected to design systems that produce true beliefs in some domain. This reply works for commonsense beliefs and can be extended to scientific beliefs. But it does not work for moral or religious beliefs. An alternative reply which has been used defend moral beliefs is that their truth does not consist in their tracking some external state of affairs. Whether or not it is successful in the case of moral beliefs, this reply is less plausible for religious beliefs. So religious beliefs emerge as particularly vulnerable to evolutionary debunking. (shrink)
Recent debate in metaethics over evolutionary debunking arguments against morality has shown a tendency to abstract away from relevant empirical detail. Here, I engage the debate about Darwinian debunking of morality with relevant empirical issues. I present four conditions that must be met in order for it to be reasonable to expect an evolved cognitive faculty to be reliable: the environment, information, error, and tracking conditions. I then argue that these conditions are not met in the case of our (...) evolved faculty for moral judgement. (shrink)
Evolutionary systems biology aims to integrate methods from systems biology and evolutionary biology to go beyond the current limitations in both fields. This article clarifies some conceptual difficulties of this integration project, and shows how they can be overcome. The main challenge we consider involves the integration of evolutionary biology with developmental dynamics, illustrated with two examples. First, we examine historical tensions between efforts to define general evolutionary principles and articulation of detailed mechanistic explanations of specific (...) traits. Next, these tensions are further clarified by considering a recent case from another field focused on developmental dynamics: stem cell biology. In the stem cell case, incompatible explanatory aims block integration. Experimental approaches aim at mechanistic explanation while dynamical system models offer explanation in terms of general principles. We then discuss an ESB case in which integration succeeds: search for general attractors using a dynamical systems framework synergizes with the experimental search for detailed mechanisms. Contrasts between the positive and negative cases suggest general lessons for achieving an integrated understanding of developmental and evolutionary dynamics. The key integrative move is to acknowledge two complementary aims, both relevant to explanation: identifying the space of possible dynamic states and trajectories, and mechanistic understanding of causal interactions underlying a specific phenomenon of interest. These two aims can support one another in a joint project characterizing dynamic aspects of evolving lineages. This more inclusive project can lead to insights that cannot be reached by either approach in isolation. (shrink)
Several theories claim that dreaming is a random by-product of REM sleep physiology and that it does not serve any natural function. Phenomenal dream content, however, is not as disorganized as such views imply. The form and content of dreams is not random but organized and selective: during dreaming, the brain constructs a complex model of the world in which certain types of elements, when compared to waking life, are underrepresented whereas others are over represented. Furthermore, dream content is consistently (...) and powerfully modulated by certain types of waking experiences. On the basis of this evidence, I put forward the hypothesis that the biological function of dreaming is to simulate threatening events, and to rehearse threat perception and threat avoidance. To evaluate this hypothesis, we need to consider the original evolutionary context of dreaming and the possible traces it has left in the dream content of the present human population. In the ancestral environment human life was short and full of threats. Any behavioral advantage in dealing with highly dangerous events would have increased the probability of reproductive success. A dream-production mechanism that tends to select threatening waking events and simulate them over and over again in various combinations would have been valuable for the development and maintenance of threat-avoidance skills. Empirical evidence from normative dream content, children's dreams, recurrent dreams, nightmares, post traumatic dreams, and the dreams of hunter-gatherers indicates that our dream-production mechanisms are in fact specialized in the simulation of threatening events, and thus provides support to the threat simulation hypothesis of the function of dreaming. Key Words: dream content; dream function; evolution of consciousness; evolutionary psychology; fear; implicit learning; nightmares; rehearsal; REM; sleep; threat perception. (shrink)
I address Andrew Moon's recent discussion (2016, this journal) of the question whether third-factor accounts are valid responses to debunking arguments against moral realism. Moon argues that third-factor responses are valid under certain conditions but leaves open whether moral realists can use his interpretation of the third-factor response to defuse the evolutionary debunking challenge. I rebut Moon's claim and answer his question. Moon's third-factor reply is valid only if we accept externalism about epistemic defeaters. However, even if we do, (...) I argue, the conditions Moon identifies for a valid third-factor response are not met in the case of moral realism. (shrink)
1. The “puzzle” Physical objects are coloured: roses are red, violets are blue, and so forth. In particular, physical objects have fine-grained shades of colour: a certain chip, we can suppose, is true blue (unique, or pure blue). The following sort of scenario is commonplace. The chip looks true blue to John; in the same (ordinary) viewing conditions it looks (slightly) greenish-blue to Jane. Both John and Jane are “normal” perceivers. Now, nothing can be both true blue and greenish-blue; (...) since the chip is true blue, it is not greenish-blue. Hence Jane, unlike John, is misperceiving the chip. Generalizing, the conclusion is that there is widespread misperception of fine-grained shades. According to Tye (2006), and Cohen, Hardin, and McLaughlin (2006), the previous paragraph amounts to a paradox: an apparently unacceptable conclusion has been drawn from apparently acceptable premises via apparently acceptable reasoning. (See also Hawthorne and Kovakovich 2006, 180-1.) Tye swallows the conclusion, aided by a dose of evolutionary speculation. Hardin (1988), on the other hand, rejects the first premise, and denies that physical objects are coloured. Cohen (2004) and McLaughlin (2003) claim that both Jane and John have the colour of the chip right. Our opening paragraph concealed a crucial parameter. In fact, the chip looks greenish-blue-relative-to- circumstances-C to Jane, and true-blue-relative-to-circumstances-C* to John, and the chip has both these relativized colours.1 All this ingenious philosophizing would be in vain, of course, if the conclusion of the opening paragraph were not puzzling or problematic. So, why is it supposed to be? According to Tye, the conclusion is puzzling because John and Jane are both “normal perceivers” (xx). He seems to think that it is (prima facie) plausible to assume.. (shrink)
This paper outlines a critique of the use of the genetic variance–covariance matrix (G), one of the central concepts in the modern study of natural selection and evolution. Specifically, I argue that for both conceptual and empirical reasons, studies of G cannot be used to elucidate so-called constraints on natural selection, nor can they be employed to detect or to measure past selection in natural populations – contrary to what assumed by most practicing biologists. I suggest that the search for (...) a general solution to the difficult problem of identifying causal structures given observed correlation’s has led evolutionary quantitative geneticists to substitute statistical modeling for the more difficult, but much more valuable, job of teasing apart the many possible causes underlying the action of natural selection. Hence, the entire evolutionary quantitative genetics research program may be in need of a fundamental reconsideration of its goals and how they correspond to the array of mathematical and experimental techniques normally employed by its practitioners. (shrink)