Article

An Evolving Research Programme: The Structure of Evolutionary Theory from a Lakatosian Perspective

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Abstract

The main topic of the paper is a discussion of the ways through which the theory of evolution remakes itself, changes and grows, keeping alive and reinforcing its Darwinian explanatory core. The theory shows a 150 years old history of theoretical and empirical extensions and revisions, without any apparent radical change of "paradigm" and without a rival Research Programme able to replace it. The ongoing transition from the Modern Synthesis (MS) to a so-called "Extended Evolutionary Synthesis" (ES) is here interpreted through the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, proposed by the epistemologist Imre Lakatos and updated. The current situation in evolutionary biology could be represented by a "progressive" shift of the Darwinian research programme, moving from the quite rigid theoretical framework of the standard version of Modern Synthesis (gradualism, extrapolationism, adaptationism) to the more inclusive and pluralistic "core" and "protective belt" of the Extended Synthesis. Promising and advanced researches -like those concerning evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-Devo), epigenetics, multiple ways of speciation and the role of structural internal constraints -find in this perspective a realistic interpretation as theoretical and empirical novelties with huge implications, nevertheless not incoherent with an extended Neo-Darwinian explanatory core. A Neo-Lakatosian approach seems useful when we discuss the extension of evolutionary models in non biological fields, avoiding the application of just metaphorical forms of "ultra-Darwinism". This analysis in terms of a rational and continuous dynamics of growth of biological thought seems much needed also for a critical examination of some popular and radicalized controversies about the health of a no better defined "Darwinism or Neo-Darwinism".

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... 3 At the same time, many historians and philosophers would disagree with the portrayal of 'persisting paradigm' that Pigliucci ascribes to evolutionary biology-first of all, as has been argued many times, Kuhnian notions such as 'paradigm' or 'exemplar' prove to be flawed, or at least very difficult to apply, for the case of biology (see, e.g., Lewens 2016;Peterson 2016). Philosophers of biology such as Telmo Pievani (2012) openly disagree with the characterization of current evolutionary theory as a Kuhnian paradigm on the grounds that no serious anomalies have accrued in the last century, and that there is no tangible 'dogmatic crystallization' or 'hardening' that announces a major crisis and a subsequent paradigm shift. Instead, Pievani (2012Pievani ( , 2016a argues that is commonplace in the field of evolutionary biology to solve and understand new problems and apparent exceptions mainly through integrative explanations, fine adjustments of the breadth of application of established forms of explanation to distinct empirical domains, novel 2 The visual tradition for depicting the EES as a nested set of ellipses (a Venn diagram), initiated by Pigliucci (2009), has been influential for many evolutionary biologists and philosophers. ...
... Philosophers of biology such as Telmo Pievani (2012) openly disagree with the characterization of current evolutionary theory as a Kuhnian paradigm on the grounds that no serious anomalies have accrued in the last century, and that there is no tangible 'dogmatic crystallization' or 'hardening' that announces a major crisis and a subsequent paradigm shift. Instead, Pievani (2012Pievani ( , 2016a argues that is commonplace in the field of evolutionary biology to solve and understand new problems and apparent exceptions mainly through integrative explanations, fine adjustments of the breadth of application of established forms of explanation to distinct empirical domains, novel 2 The visual tradition for depicting the EES as a nested set of ellipses (a Venn diagram), initiated by Pigliucci (2009), has been influential for many evolutionary biologists and philosophers. For example, taking Pigliucci´s diagram as a starting point, the British physiologist Denis Noble recently published his take on the contours of the EES (Noble 2015), for him dubbed 'Integrative Synthesis' as it would be based on the integration of a variety of interacting mechanisms of evolutionary change; he sees it as "a nuanced multi mechanism theory of evolution" (Noble 2015;p. ...
... calculations of the relative frequency of occurrence of evolutionary patterns, and by means of updating the evolutionist's theoretical tool-kit and plodding along experimental novelties. That means that "(…) the dynamics of growth and evolution of the theory is based on processes of theoretical extension and empirical enlargement of an elastic set of explanations already consolidated but constantly needing adjustments and integrations" (Pievani 2012;p. 214). ...
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Article
The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) debate is gaining ground in contemporary evolutionary biology. In parallel, a number of philosophical standpoints have emerged in an attempt to clarify what exactly is represented by the EES. For Massimo Pigliucci, we are in the wake of the newest instantiation of a persisting Kuhnian paradigm; in contrast, Telmo Pievani has contended that the transition to an EES could be best represented as a progressive reformation of a prior Lakatosian scientific research program, with the extension of its Neo-Darwinian core and the addition of a brand-new protective belt of assumptions and auxiliary hypotheses. Here, we argue that those philosophical vantage points are not the only ways to interpret what current proposals to ‘extend’ the Modern Synthesis-derived ‘standard evolutionary theory’ (SET) entail in terms of theoretical change in evolutionary biology. We specifically propose the image of the emergent EES as a vast network of models and interweaved representations that, instantiated in diverse practices, are connected and related in multiple ways. Under that assumption, the EES could be articulated around a paraconsistent network of evolutionary theories (including some elements of the SET), as well as models, practices and representation systems of contemporary evolutionary biology, with edges and nodes that change their position and centrality as a consequence of the co-construction and stabilization of facts and historical discussions revolving around the epistemic goals of this area of the life sciences. We then critically examine the purported structure of the EES—published by Laland and collaborators in 2015—in light of our own network-based proposal. Finally, we consider which epistemic units of Evo-Devo are present or still missing from the EES, in preparation for further analyses of the topic of explanatory integration in this conceptual framework.
... 3 At the same time, many historians and philosophers would disagree with the portrayal of 'persisting paradigm' that Pigliucci ascribes to evolutionary biology-first of all, as has been argued many times, Kuhnian notions such as 'paradigm' or 'exemplar' prove to be flawed, or at least very difficult to apply, for the case of biology (see, e.g., Lewens 2016;Peterson 2016). Philosophers of biology such as Telmo Pievani (2012) openly disagree with the characterization of current evolutionary theory as a Kuhnian paradigm on the grounds that no serious anomalies have accrued in the last century, and that there is no tangible 'dogmatic crystallization' or 'hardening' that announces a major crisis and a subsequent paradigm shift. Instead, Pievani (2012Pievani ( , 2016a argues that is commonplace in the field of evolutionary biology to solve and understand new problems and apparent exceptions mainly through integrative explanations, fine adjustments of the breadth of application of established forms of explanation to distinct empirical domains, novel 2 The visual tradition for depicting the EES as a nested set of ellipses (a Venn diagram), initiated by Pigliucci (2009), has been influential for many evolutionary biologists and philosophers. ...
... Philosophers of biology such as Telmo Pievani (2012) openly disagree with the characterization of current evolutionary theory as a Kuhnian paradigm on the grounds that no serious anomalies have accrued in the last century, and that there is no tangible 'dogmatic crystallization' or 'hardening' that announces a major crisis and a subsequent paradigm shift. Instead, Pievani (2012Pievani ( , 2016a argues that is commonplace in the field of evolutionary biology to solve and understand new problems and apparent exceptions mainly through integrative explanations, fine adjustments of the breadth of application of established forms of explanation to distinct empirical domains, novel 2 The visual tradition for depicting the EES as a nested set of ellipses (a Venn diagram), initiated by Pigliucci (2009), has been influential for many evolutionary biologists and philosophers. For example, taking Pigliucci´s diagram as a starting point, the British physiologist Denis Noble recently published his take on the contours of the EES (Noble 2015), for him dubbed 'Integrative Synthesis' as it would be based on the integration of a variety of interacting mechanisms of evolutionary change; he sees it as "a nuanced multi mechanism theory of evolution" (Noble 2015;p. ...
... calculations of the relative frequency of occurrence of evolutionary patterns, and by means of updating the evolutionist's theoretical tool-kit and plodding along experimental novelties. That means that "(…) the dynamics of growth and evolution of the theory is based on processes of theoretical extension and empirical enlargement of an elastic set of explanations already consolidated but constantly needing adjustments and integrations" (Pievani 2012;p. 214). ...
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Article
Contemporary evolutionary biology comprises a plural landscape of multiple co-existent conceptual frameworks and strenuous voices that disagree on the nature and scope of evolutionary theory. Since the mid-eighties, some of these conceptual frameworks have denounced the ontologies of the Modern Synthesis and of the updated Standard Theory of Evolution as unfinished or even flawed. In this paper, we analyze and compare two of those conceptual frameworks, namely Niles Eldredge’s Hierarchy Theory of Evolution (with its extended ontology of evolutionary entities) and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (with its proposal of an extended ontology of evolutionary processes), in an attempt to map some epistemic bridges (e.g. compatible views of causation; niche construction) and some conceptual rifts (e.g. extra-genetic inheritance; different perspectives on macroevolution; contrasting standpoints held in the “externalism–internalism” debate) that exist between them. This paper seeks to encourage theoretical, philosophical and historiographical discussions about pluralism or the possible unification of contemporary evolutionary biology.
... Or is a new structured theory emerging? In order to reach a consensus about that, maybe the narrow term ''theory'' should be replaced by the more articulated epistemological tool proposed by Imre Lakatos for other disciplines: evolutionary biology today has something more than a theory, it has a ''research programme'' (Lakatos 1978;Pievani 2012a). ...
... He tried to trace the lines for updating the existing one (Pievani 2012a) . Then it is inaccurate to say that SJG has been a ''failed revolutionary'' (Dennett 1995). ...
Book
Stephen J. Gould’s greatest contribution to science is a revised version of the theory of evolution which offers today a useful framework for understanding progress in many evolutionary fields. His intuitions about the conjunction of evolution and development, the role of ecological factors in speciation, the multi-level interpretation of the units of selection, and the interplay between functional pressures and constraints all represent fruitful lines of experimental research. His opposition to the progressive representations of evolution, the gene-centered view of natural history, or the adaptationist “just-so stories” has also left its mark on current biology. In May 2012, at the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti in Venice, an international panel of scientists and philosophers discussed Stephen J. Gould’s legacy, ten years after his death. This book presents a selection of those contributions, chosen for their interest and importance. A broad range of themes are covered: Gould’s contribution to evolutionary theory, including the concept of punctuated equilibria and the importance of his pluralism; the Gouldian view of genome and development; Gould’s legacy in anthropology; and, finally, the significance of his thought for the human sciences. This book provides a fascinating appraisal of the cultural legacy of one of the world’s greatest popular writers in the life sciences. This is the first time that scientists including some of Gould’s personal friends and co-authors of papers of momentous importance such as Niles Eldredge have come together to strike a balanced view of Gould's intellectual heritage.
... Thus, we need a theoretical foundation of the pragmatic explanatory pluralism we see in the field, also about the topic of individuals and groups in evolution. As a proposal (Pievani 2012), the current theory of evolution could be seen as a progressive scientific research programme (in the sense of epistemologist Imre Lakatos and his methodology for detecting rival scientific research programmes), with a Neo- Darwinian extended core and a pluralistic protective belt made by open problems, auxiliary assumptions, ad hoc hypotheses, alternative models, etc. The extended core is represented by four pluralistic basic patterns: multiple sources of genetic, epigenetic and developmental variation; multiple selective processes (multilevel selection ); genetic drift and neutralistic factors; macro-evolutionary patterns. ...
... Moreover, the two roads to eusociality (in invertebrates and humans) are paved with long series of 'pre-adaptations': functional cooptations of traits evolved for previous adaptive reasons (without any anticipation of potential future roles for eusociality ) and then converted for other functions in modified 'social niches' (another intuition leaking out from later Darwin's writings). The evolution of sociality, namely, in the passage of altruistic behaviours from biological niches to human cultural niches, could have been strongly influenced by such 'ex-aptations' or functional shifts (Pievani 2012). As shown in the current 'individuals/groups' debate, the hardening of the Modern Synthesis around natural selection acting only at the level of individuals seems to be definitely over. ...
Article
Outlined here is an updated review of the long-standing 'kin selection vs group selection' debate. Group selection is a highly contentious concept, scientifically and philosophically. In 2012, Dawkins' attack against Wilson's latest book about eusociality concentrated all the attention on group selection and its mutual exclusivity with respect to inclusive fitness theory. Both opponents seem to be wrong, facing the general consensus in the field, which favours a pluralistic approach. Historically, despite some misunderstandings in current literature, such a perspective is clearly rooted in Darwin's writings, which suggested a plurality of levels of selection and a general view that we propose to call 'imperfect selfishness'. Today, the mathematically updated hypothesis of group selection has little to do with earlier versions of 'group selection'. It does not imply ontologically unmanageable notions of 'groups'. We propose here population structure as the main criterion of compatibility between kin selection and group selection. The latter is now evidently a pattern among others within a more general 'multilevel selection' theory. Different explanations and patterns are not mutually exclusive. Such a Darwinian pluralism is not a piece of the past, but a path into the future. A challenge in philosophy of biology will be to figure out the logical structure of this emerging pluralistic theory of evolution in such contentious debates.
... The role of Stephen J. Gould's ideas in palaeo-anthropology is an excellent example of indirect theoretical influence between a general scientific "research programme" (Pievani, 2012a) -that is evolutionary thought at large -and one of its strikingly changing sub-fields, the study of human evolution. As an invertebrate palaeontologist (Gould, 1969(Gould, , 1970b and evolutionary theorist, Stephen J. Gould (now: SJG) did not publish any direct experimental results in palaeoanthropology (with the exception of Pilbeam & Gould, 1974), but was able to prepare the stage for many debates within the discipline, frequently concerning some implicit, powerful but misleading concepts applied to human evolution. ...
... Otherwise, it could mean an extension and revision of its structure, remaining nevertheless compatible with other components and patterns of it (Somit & Peterson, 1992). The result is a structure of the theory of evolution, intended as a research programme (Pievani, 2012a), that is more articulated in a pluralistic frame, more realistic in its assumptions about the currently available evidence, with revision of previous restrictive concepts (regarding the "universality" of some patterns) hardened in the protective belt of the late version of the Modern Synthesis in the 1960s (now: MS) (Gould, 2002a). ...
Article
As an invertebrate palaeontologist and evolutionary theorist, Stephen J. Gould did not publish any direct experimental results in palaeo-anthropology (with the exception of Pilbeam and Gould, 1974), but he did prepare the stage for many debates within the discipline. We argue here that his scientific legacy in the anthropological fields has a clear and coherent conceptual structure. It is based on four main pillars: (1) the famed deconstruction of the "ladder of progress" as an influential metaphor in human evolution; (2) Punctuated Equilibria and their significance in human macro-evolution viewed as a directionless "bushy tree" of species; (3) the trade-offs between functional and structural factors in evolution and the notion of exaptation; (4) delayed growth, or neoteny, as an evidence in human evolution. These keystones should be considered as consequences of the enduring theoretical legacy of the eminent Harvard evolutionist: the proposal of an extended and revised Darwinism, coherently outlined in the last twenty years of his life (1982-2002) and set out in 2002 in his final work, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. It is in the light of his "Darwinian pluralism", able to integrate in a new frame the multiplicity of explanatory patterns emerging from different evolutionary fields, that we understand Stephen J. Gould's legacy in palaeo-anthropology today, both in terms of provocative shocks to comfortable visions of human evolution and, above all, in terms of specific scientific predictions about future research.
... В современной литературе уже указывалось на применимость «неолакатовского» подхода для описания эволюции эволюционной биологии и особенно перехода от синтетической теории эволюции к расширенному синтезу [38]. Пивани рассматривает переход к расширенному синтезу как «прогрессивный сдвиг» дарвиновской исследовательской программы в направлении к более объемному (инклюзивному) и разнообразному «ядру» и «защитному поясу». ...
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Article
Philosophical theories proceeding from the history of physical-mathematical sciences are hardly applicable to the analysis of biosciences and evolutionary theory, in particular. This article briefly reconstructs the history of evolutionary theory beginning with its roots in the 19th century and up to the ultracontemporary concepts. Our objective is to outline the dynamics of Darwinism and anti-Darwinism from the perspective of the philosophy of science. We begin with the arguments of E. Mayr against the applicability of T. Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions to the history of biology. Mayr emphasized that Darwin’s publication of the Origin of Species in 1859 caused a genuine scientific revolution in biology, but it was not a Kuhnian revolution. Darwin coined several theories comprising a complex theoretical system. Mayr defined five most crucial of these theories: evolution as such, common descent of all organisms including man, gradualism, the multiplication of species explaining organic diversity, and, finally, the theory of natural selection. Distinguishing these theories is of great significance because their destiny in the history of biology substantially differed. The acceptance of one theory by the majority of the scientific community does not necessarily mean the acceptance of others. Another argument by Mayr proved that Darwin caused two scientific revolutions in biology, which Mayr referred to as the First and Second Darwinian Revolutions. The Second Darwinian Revolution happened already in the 20th century and Mayr himself was its active participant. Both revolutions followed Darwin’s concept of natural selection. The period between these two revolutions can be in no way described as “normal science” in Kuhnian terms. Our reconstruction of the history of evolutionary theory support Mayr’s anti-Kuhnian arguments. Furthermore, we claim that the “evolution of evolutionary theory” can be interpreted in terms of the modified research programmes theory by Imre Lakatos, though not in their “purity”, but rather modified and combined with certain aspects of Marxian-Hegelian dialectics.
... Telling, in this respect, is that most adherents of the EES themselves do not believe that this model is an emerging, new paradigm. Rather, they tend to interpret it as an alternative, Lakatosian research program (see, e.g., Pigliucci and Finkelman 2014;Laland et al. 2015; see also Pievani 2012). 10 In the following section, we will propose an alternative and new Kuhnian interpretation of the EES. ...
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Article
Traditionally, Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) is largely identified with his analysis of the structure of scientific revolutions. Here, we contribute to a minority tradition in the Kuhn literature by interpreting the history of evolutionary biology through the prism of the entire historical developmental model of sciences that he elaborates in The Structure. This research not only reveals a certain match between this model and the history of evolutionary biology but, more importantly, also sheds new light on several episodes in that history, and particularly on the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), the construction of the modern evolutionary synthesis, the chronic discontent with it, and the latest expression of that discontent, called the extended evolutionary synthesis. Lastly, we also explain why this kind of analysis hasn’t been done before.
... Così, scrive Pievani che il passaggio da SM a SE «is neither a superficial maquillage on marginal points of a hardened structure, nor a radical break with complete substitution of RP [programma di ricerca]: rather, a steady and irreversible transformation of the architecture of the previous RP». 39 Interpretare la "sintesi evoluzionistica estesa" e i suoi rapporti con la "sintesi moderna" nei termini della "metodologia dei programmi di ricerca scientifici" lakatosiana consente di apprezzare il carattere aperto e "vivo" del programma darwiniano, in continua evoluzione; inoltre, consente di riconoscere e "contestualizzare" le fasi di irrigidimento teorico: ogni versione del programma ha il suo momento "kuhniano" di infalsificabilità, almeno metodologica, ma tale infalsificabilità non impedisce di principio che il core possa evolvere, sulla scia della trasformazione delle ipotesi nella sua protective belt. In particolare la "sintesi estesa", per la forte spinta alla multidisciplinarietà che la caratterizza, l'attenzione alle implicazioni extrabiologiche del darwinismo e il rinnovato interesse per le sinergie tra evoluzione biologica ed evoluzione culturale, appare la cornice teori-ca più adatta per (ri)tentare interazioni tra il versante delle scienze umane e filosofiche e quello delle scienze biologiche, come si è cercato di fare anche qui rileggendo alcuni luoghi paradigmatici del pensiero occidentale moderno e contemporaneo sul concetto di individuo e di identità personale alla luce delle teorie dell'ologenoma e dell'olobionte. ...
... As causes of change, geophysical factors and geographical constraints are independent from adaptive micro-evolutionary dynamics of change in genetic frequencies, although they can influence these from higher levels of evolution, shaping, for example, the population structure of a species in its territory. This means first that we need an extended and multilevel theory of evolution, with a Neo-Darwinian core and a surrounding plurality of new patterns of transformation [Okasha 2006, Pievani 2012. However, it also means that the macro-evolution of the several human species was the history of their relationships with geophysical phenomena and contingent events. ...
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This article explores the role of philosophy of the Earth sciences in the foundation of the principles of 'geoethics'. In particular, the focus is on two different examples of philosophical analysis in the field of geosciences: the first is the trial against the Italian National Commission for Forecasting and Predicting Great Risks, which was charged with negligence in communication and prediction on the occasion of the earthquake that almost destroyed the city of L'Aquila on the night of April 6, 2009; the second is related to the scientific and theoretical consequences of the updated geographical scenario of the human global populating of the Earth, based on archeological, paleontological and genetic data. Our concept of 'scientific prediction' in the case of geophysical phenomena and the new ways to see human evolution that depend on geophysical factors have ethical and philosophical implications that are crucial for the foundations of geoethics. The tentative conclusion is that we need an evolutionary sense of belonging to our Planet, and a concept of 'natural' phenomena and 'natural' disasters that should not be an alibi for the underestimation of our political and ethical responsibilities.
... As Gould (2002) points out in his magnum opus, a new synthesis is still much in progress. In fact, as with all scientific theories, evolutionary theory always continues to progress (Pievani 2011) and, at any one point in time, must be regarded as the ''current understanding.'' Historian that he was, Gould would have appreciated that this understanding has further progressed since his writings. ...
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Chapter
In evolutionary biology, the term “spandrel” infallibly elicits the memory of Steve Gould. It has become a standard in referring to constructional byproducts and developmental constraints. More often than not, these were regarded as lesser facets of evolutionary change, with priority given to population dynamics and the workings of natural selection. But the fundamental criticism, in the spandrels paper and other works of Gould, of the absence of organism level factors in the standard Modern Synthesis account, also helped trigger the EvoDevo revolution and important reconceptualizations of evolutionary theory. Recent versions of theory expansion include many of Gould’s propositions but also theoretical changes emerging from other fields, such as genomics, non-genetic inheritance, niche construction, and others. These amount not merely to a numerical addition of factors to be taken into account, but also initiate major shifts in theory structure. As a consequence, today’s extended frameworks of evolutionary theory entail a significant increase in explanatory capacity and predictive power.
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The present contribution offers a descriptive account of two recent books concerning shamanism, Homayun Sidky’s The Origins of Shamanism, Spirit Beliefs, and Religiosity: A Cognitive Anthropological Perspective (2017) and Sergio Botta’s Dagli sciamani allo sciamanesimo. Discorsi, credenze, pratiche (2018). The commentary starts by supplying a brief historical contextualization of the subfield of shamanic studies in both Anthropology and the History of Religions, highlighting the main trends and widespread approaches. Sidky’s neurocognitive account and Botta’s poststructural historiographical walk-through are then taken into consideration and reviewed. The conclusions under-score the need for an integration between these two perspectives and urge cognitive historians to collaborate with like-minded anthropologists in order to further the study of shamanism and prevent the subfield from becoming de novo monopolized by paranormal and postmodern anthropology.
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The article offers an extended review, counterpointed by a critical commentary, of two recent and outstanding volumes, Turner et al.’s The Emergence and Evolution of Religion (2018) and Sanderson’s Religious Evolution and the Axial Age (2018). Both books are eminently interdisciplinary in their scope: the first displays a distinctive deep-historical and neurosociological attention to the evolution of negative emotions and inter-group competition, while the latter focuses on the contribution of world transcendent religions to help human beings cope with new and challenging biosocial conditions derived from ultrasociality. While the two volumes gain unprecedented multidisciplinary width, they also tend to lose intra-disciplinary depth. However, and for all their differences, they both represent the vanguard of a renewed qualitative, scientific, and interdisciplinary study of the history of religion(s) through cognitive historiography. This contribution presents the main theses of both books, highlights their strengths, and provides a comprehensive discussion of their epistemological and methodological shortcomings.
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Synthesising arguments motivate changes to the conceptual tools, theoretical structure, and evaluatory framework employed in a given scientific domain. Recently, a broad coalition of researchers has put forward a synthesising argument in favour of an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis ('EES'). Often this synthesising argument is evaluated using a virtue-based approach, which construes the EES as a wholesale alternative to prevailing practice. Here I argue this virtue-based approach is not fit for purpose. Taking the central concept of niche construction as a case study, I show that an agenda-based approach better captures the pragmatic and epistemological goals of the EES synthesising argument and diagnoses areas of empirical disagreement with prevailing practice.
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Lakatos’s philosophy of science has been used for different branches of biology, however this has not been true for helminthology. Therefore, this article examines the possibility of using his methodology of scientific research programmes (SRP) for reconstructing the history of the discipline of helminthology. It is upheld that the first SRP in biology was inaugurated by Aristotle, and its protective belt included a small group of auxiliary hypotheses referring to helminths. This programme continued up until the 17th century, when two rival programmes in helminthology arose: the internalist and the externalist. After the second half of the 19th century the internalist SRP was abandoned, while the externalist considerably broadened its protective belt during the 20th century. The internalist programme was abandoned due to the crucial experiments of Küchenmeister, which permitted the consolidation of the externalist SRP.
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Evolutionary theory may be understood as a set of overlapping model types, the most prominent of which is the natural selection model, introduced by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Many of the most prominent models today are represented throughmathematical population genetics, in which genetical representations of populations evolve over time to produce evolutionary change. I review the variety of evolutionary models – from genic to group to species selection models – and how they are confirmed through evidence today. I discuss both applications to cases where we do not know the genetics, and to animal behavior and evolution.
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Language evolution, intended as an open problem in the evolutionary research programme, will be here analyzed from the theoretical perspective advanced by the supporters of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis. Four factors (niche construction, inclusive inheritance, phenotypic plasticity, developmental constraints) and two associated concepts (constructive development and reciprocal causation) will be matched with a selection of critical examples concerning genus Homo evolution, relevant for the evolution of language, such as the evolution of hominin life-history traits, the enlargement of the social group, increased cooperation among individuals, behavioral change and innovations (the use of fire), heterochronic modifications leading to increased synaptic plasticity. A particular form of niche construction will be considered (namely counteractive niche construction or cultural mitigation of selection) in a multilevel framework (from the ecological to the molecular level). It will be argued that the four points mentioned above prove to be fundamental explanatory tools to understand how language might have emerged as a result of a gene-culture coevolutionary dynamics.
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In this paper, I explore two of the most pernicious kinds of scientific distortions and misconceptions pertinent to the study of religion (i.e., pseudoscientific trends focused on allegedly paranormal/supernatural phenomena and discontinuity between human and non-human cognition), arguing that: a) the adherence to the prestigious reputation of Eliadean academic frameworks may still cause grave distortions in the comprehension of relevant scientific fields; b) a reliance on cognition alone does not guarantee ipso facto a more epistemically warranted study of religion; c) an evolutionary and cognitively continuist approach to the study of religion is, instead, the most promising and fundamental scholarly tool to bridge the gap between the humanities and the natural sciences, even though it remains a long-term goal; d) the obsolete language of “aboriginal cultures” as open-air museums for our past is rooted in the aforementioned misconceptions and, though basically flawed, is still very much alive.
Chapter
Four main ingredients are necessary for the recipe of natural selection: a common demanding and competitive environment; individual, spontaneous variation; inheritance of part of this variation and a sufficient time frame. The result is a differential survival and reproduction of varying individuals, multiplied over generations: self-reproducing lineages of organisms change over time. As a statistical process with probabilistic outcomes, natural selection can be explained without using misleading terms such as “adaptation” and “chance”. The selective process is an experienced fact in nature and an explanatory pattern that could be generalised in different forms (such as sexual selection, kin selection and so on). Despite its strong explanatory power, natural selection is a constrained process and is not self-sufficient: it is the pivot within a plurality of complementary and alternative explanatory patterns, the most important of which is the genetic drift.
Chapter
Stephen J. Gould’s living legacy is a scientific and epistemological one, much beyond his talent as science writer and communicator in evolutionary topics. In the XX century Gould has been one of the most important evolutionary biologists proposing a new logical and theoretical “structure” for the whole theory of evolution, not just a description of disjointed innovative emerging fields. He named this structure “Darwinian pluralism” or extended Darwinism. Ten years after his death and after a lot of impressing new discoveries in many evolutionary fields, we discuss the efficacy and limits of his pluralism, also in comparison with other kinds of pluralistic approaches to the units, the levels and the factors of evolutionary change. Adopting the methodology of “scientific research programmes”, we present Gould’s legacy as a peculiar expression of reformist Neo-Darwinism: polemic targets are referred to the so called “hardenings” of the Modern Synthesis, whereas the assumptions of compatibility are referred to the core of the original Darwinian theory.
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This book applies to the study of human nature the generally pluralistic metaphysics and methodology developed in the author's earlier work. It begins with detailed criticism of two popular projects for understanding human nature, evolutionary psychology, and rational‐choice theory. The argument shows how the flaws in these projects reflect deep misconceptions about the nature and the legitimate ambitions of science. Such scientific theories necessarily provide highly simplified accounts of a phenomenon as complex as human nature and can provide only a small part of the total picture of such a phenomenon. Only a pluralistic approach, an approach that combines insights from a variety of perspectives not limited to the scientific, can hope to provide anything close to an adequate account of human nature. In addition to a variety of partial perspectives from science, the humanities, and, not least, common human experience, it is argued that there is also room for a conception of human autonomy. The details of this conception, including a sketch of a novel voluntarist theory of freedom of the will, are provided in a concluding chapter.
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My title refers to Richard Levins'famous paper on models in population biology (1966). Here Levins presented his three-way distinction between kinds of model-building, and also introduced a set of more fundamental ideas about trade-offs that constrain and guide scientific work. For Levins, these trade-offs derive from the relationships between three different theoretical goals: realism, precision, and generality.
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Evolutionary biology presents a bewildering array of phenomena to scientists and students alike—ranging from molecules to species and ecosystems; and embracing 3.8 billion years of life’s history on earth. Biological systems are arranged hierarchically, with smaller units forming the components of larger systems. The evolutionary hierarchy, based on replication of genetic information and reproduction, is a complex of genes/organisms/demes/species and higher taxa. The ecological hierarchy, based on patterns of matter–energy transfer, is a complex of proteins/organisms/avatars/local ecosystems/regional ecosystems. All organisms are simultaneously parts of both hierarchical systems. Darwin’s original formulation of natural selection maps smoothly onto a diagram where the two hierarchical systems are placed side-by-side. The “sloshing bucket” theory of evolution emerges from empirical cases in biological history mapped onto this dual hierarchy scheme: little phenotypically discernible evolution occurs with minor ecological disturbance; conversely, greatest concentrations of change in evolutionary history follow mass extinctions, themselves based on physical perturbations of global extent. Most evolution occurs in intermediate-level regional “turnovers,” when species extinction leads to rapid evolution of new species. Hierarchy theory provides a way of integrating all fields of evolutionary biology into an easily understood—and taught—rubric.
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Evolutionary theory went through several phases ever since the publication of the original Darwin-Wallace paper, including neo-Darwinism, the Modern Synthesis and, possibly, a currently ongoing Extended Synthesis. In this paper I tackle the question of whether evolutionary biology ever underwent anything like a Kuhn-style paradigm shift. I conclude that it did not, and is not likely to do so in the future, although a paradigmlike shift did occur early on, at the transition between natural theology and Darwinism. Parole chiave: Darwinismo, Paradigmi, Sintesi estesa, Sintesi moderna, Teologia naturale
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The first comprehensive synthesis on development and evolution: it applies to all aspects of development, at all levels of organization and in all organisms, taking advantage of modern findings on behavior, genetics, endocrinology, molecular biology, evolutionary theory and phylogenetics to show the connections between developmental mechanisms and evolutionary change. This book solves key problems that have impeded a definitive synthesis in the past. It uses new concepts and specific examples to show how to relate environmentally sensitive development to the genetic theory of adaptive evolution and to explain major patterns of change. In this book development includes not only embryology and the ontogeny of morphology, sometimes portrayed inadequately as governed by "regulatory genes," but also behavioral development and physiological adaptation, where plasticity is mediated by genetically complex mechanisms like hormones and learning. The book shows how the universal qualities of phenotypes--modular organization and plasticity--facilitate both integration and change. Here you will learn why it is wrong to describe organisms as genetically programmed; why environmental induction is likely to be more important in evolution than random mutation; and why it is crucial to consider both selection and developmental mechanism in explanations of adaptive evolution. This book satisfies the need for a truly general book on development, plasticity and evolution that applies to living organisms in all of their life stages and environments. Using an immense compendium of examples on many kinds of organisms, from viruses and bacteria to higher plants and animals, it shows how the phenotype is reorganized during evolution to produce novelties, and how alternative phenotypes occupy a pivotal role as a phase of evolution that fosters diversification and speeds change. The arguments of this book call for a new view of the major themes of evolutionary biology, as shown in chapters on gradualism, homology, environmental induction, speciation, radiation, macroevolution, punctuation, and the maintenance of sex. No other treatment of development and evolution since Darwin's offers such a comprehensive and critical discussion of the relevant issues. Developmental Plasticity and Evolution is designed for biologists interested in the development and evolution of behavior, life-history patterns, ecology, physiology, morphology and speciation. It will also appeal to evolutionary paleontologists, anthropologists, psychologists, and teachers of general biology.
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The neutral theory claims that the great majority of evolutionary changes at the molecular level are controlled by random genetic drift under continued input of mutations, and that most of the genetic variation within species is maintained by the same mechanisms. The theory leads to a general view that since the origin of life on Earth, neutral evolutionary changes have played a most important role in evolution and predominated over Darwinian evolutionary changes, at least in number, throughout the whole history of life.
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This collection of specially commissioned essays puts top scholars head to head to debate the central issues in the lively and fast growing field of philosophy of biology. Brings together original essays on ten of the most hotly debated questions in philosophy of biology. Lively head-to-head debate format sharply defines the issues and paves the way for further discussion. Includes coverage of the new and vital area of evolutionary developmental biology, as well as the concept of a unified species, the role of genes in selection, the differences between micro- and macro-evolution, and much more. Each section features an introduction to the topic as well as suggestions for further reading. Offers an accessible overview of this fast-growing and dynamic field, whilst also capturing the imagination of professional philosophers and biologists
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Evolutionary developmental biology, or ‘evo-devo’, is the study of the relationship between evolution and development. Dealing specifically with the generative mechanisms of organismal form, evo-devo goes straight to the core of the developmental origin of variation, the raw material on which natural selection (and random drift) can work. Evolving Pathways brings together contributions that represent a diversity of approaches. Topics range from developmental genetics to comparative morphology of animals and plants alike, and also include botany and palaeontology, two disciplines for which the potential to be examined from an evo-devo perspective has largely been ignored until now. Researchers and graduate students will find this book a valuable overview of current research as we begin to fill a major gap in our perception of evolutionary change. © Cambridge University Press 2008 and Cambridge University Press, 2009.
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In the 150 years since Darwin, the field of evolutionary biology has left a glaring gap in understanding how animals developed their astounding variety and complexity. The standard answer has been that small genetic mutations accumulate over time to produce wondrous innovations such as eyes and wings. Drawing on cutting-edge research across the spectrum of modern biology, Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart demonstrate how this stock answer is woefully inadequate. Rather they offer an original solution to the longstanding puzzle of how small random genetic change can be converted into complex, useful innovations. In a new theory they call "facilitated variation," Kirschner and Gerhart elevate the individual organism from a passive target of natural selection to a central player in the 3-billion-year history of evolution. In clear, accessible language, the authors invite every reader to contemplate daring new ideas about evolution. By closing the major gap in Darwin's theory Kirschner and Gerhart also provide a timely scientific rebuttal to modern critics of evolution who champion "intelligent design.". © 2005 by Marc W. Kirschner and John C. Gerhart. All rights reserved.
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An adaptationist programme has dominated evolutionary thought in England and the United States during the past 40 years. It is based on faith in the power of natural selection as an optimizing agent. It proceeds by breaking an oragnism into unitary 'traits' and proposing an adaptive story for each considered separately. Trade-offs among competing selective demands exert the only brake upon perfection; non-optimality is thereby rendered as a result of adaptation as well. We criticize this approach and attempt to reassert a competing notion (long popular in continental Europe) that organisms must be analysed as integrated wholes, with Baupläne so constrained by phyletic heritage, pathways of development and general architecture that the constraints themselves become more interesting and more important in delimiting pathways of change than the selective force that may mediate change when it occurs. We fault the adaptationist programme for its failure to distinguish current utility from reasons for origin (male tyrannosaurs may have used their diminutive front legs to titillate female partners, but this will not explain why they got so small); for its unwillingness to consider alternatives to adaptive stories; for its reliance upon plausibility alone as a criterion for accepting speculative tales; and for its failure to consider adequately such competing themes as random fixation of alleles, production of non-adaptive structures by developmental correlation with selected features (allometry, pleiotropy, material compensation, mechanically forced correlation), the separability of adaptation and selection, multiple adaptive peaks, and current utility as an epiphenomenon of non-adaptive structures. We support Darwin's own pluralistic approach to identifying the agents of evolutionary change.
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Imre Lakatos' philosophical and scientific papers are published here in two volumes. Volume I brings together his very influential but scattered papers on the philosophy of the physical sciences, and includes one important unpublished essay on the effect of Newton's scientific achievement. Volume II presents his work on the philosophy of mathematics (much of it unpublished), together with some critical essays on contemporary philosophers of science and some famous polemical writings on political and educational issues. Imre Lakatos had an influence out of all proportion to the length of his philosophical career. This collection exhibits and confirms the originality, range and the essential unity of his work. It demonstrates too the force and spirit he brought to every issue with which he engaged, from his most abstract mathematical work to his passionate 'Letter to the director of the LSE'. Lakatos' ideas are now the focus of widespread and increasing interest, and these volumes should make possible for the first time their study as a whole and their proper assessment.
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How should the concept of evidence be understood? And how does the concept of evidence apply to the controversy about creationism as well as to work in evolutionary biology about natural selection and common ancestry? In this rich and wide-ranging book, Elliott Sober investigates general questions about probability and evidence and shows how the answers he develops to those questions apply to the specifics of evolutionary biology. Drawing on a set of fascinating examples, he analyzes whether claims about intelligent design are untestable; whether they are discredited by the fact that many adaptations are imperfect; how evidence bears on whether present species trace back to common ancestors; how hypotheses about natural selection can be tested, and many other issues. His book will interest all readers who want to understand philosophical questions about evidence and evolution, as they arise both in Darwin's work and in contemporary biological research.
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MASSIMO PICLIUCCI Phenotypic Plasticity BEYOND NATURE AND NURTURE tor more than nvo decades rlic concept of phenotypic plasticity has allowed re- searchers to go beyond the nature-nurture dichotomy to gain deeper insights into how organisms arc shaped by the
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Prominent evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science survey recent work that expands the core theoretical framework underlying the biological sciences.
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La teoria dell'evoluzione è rappresentata oggi da un programma di ricerca composito, dotato di un "nucleo" centrale neodarwiniano esteso e di una "cintura" di assunzioni ausiliarie in via di affinamento. Darwin non sapeva cosa fosse un gene e aveva un'idea dei meccanismi di ereditarietà che si rivelerà poi scorretta, ma aveva capito che all'interno delle popolazioni vi è una continua produzione di diversità ereditaria e che questa diversità viene sottoposta al filtro della selezione: è il nocciolo esplicativo ancora oggi al centro del programma di ricerca evoluzionista e fuso insieme alla biologia molecolare nella cosiddetta "Sintesi Moderna". Oggi a quel nucleo vanno aggiunti altri "motori" di cambiamento, come la deriva genetica, la migrazione e il complesso dei fenomeni macroevolutivi che si manifestano su larga scala. Anche le assunzioni ausiliarie della Sintesi Moderna - relative ai ritmi, ai livelli e ai vincoli dell'evoluzione - sono in corso di trasformazione e stanno transitando verso una forma più pluralista che potremmo abbozzare come "nuova sintesi". Gli sviluppi della genomica evoluzionistica, della biologia evolutiva dello sviluppo e della paleoantropologia possono essere efficacemente inquadrati in questa cornice. Ne risulta che è infondato parlare di più teorie dell'evoluzione o di un superamento dell'impianto esplicativo neodarwiniano. Si prefigura piuttosto la corroborazione di quella visione del processo evoluzionistico che Stephen J. Gould aveva definito in modo suggestivo come "darwinismo esteso" o "pluralismo darwiniano". We would like to present here a supposed extension of the neo-darwinian structure of the theory of evolution. This structure is well represented as a progressive "Scientific Research Program", according to Imre Lakatos' standard definition. We currently see an extended neo- darwinian core (variation, natural selection, genetic drift, migration and macro-evolutionary effects), surrounded by a protective belt of auxiliary assumptions. Our hypothesis is that these assumptions are passing from a restrictive frame (gradualism, geno-centric view, adaptationism) to a pluralistic frame (multiple patterns about rhythms, units and factors of biological evolution). The new branching pattern of hominid evolution and "Evo-Devo" are two good case-studies for this hypothesis in philosophy of biology.
Article
Motoo Kimura, as founder of the neutral theory, is uniquely placed to write this book. He first proposed the theory in 1968 to explain the unexpectedly high rate of evolutionary change and very large amount of intraspecific variability at the molecular level that had been uncovered by new techniques in molecular biology. The theory - which asserts that the great majority of evolutionary changes at the molecular level are caused not by Darwinian selection but by random drift of selectively neutral mutants - has caused controversy ever since. This book is the first comprehensive treatment of this subject and the author synthesises a wealth of material - ranging from a historical perspective, through recent molecular discoveries, to sophisticated mathematical arguments - all presented in a most lucid manner.
Article
Since formulating the theory of punctuated equilibria in 1972, a group of prominent evolutionary biologists, geneticists, and paleontologists have contributed towards a significant reinterpretation of the neo-Darwinian image of evolution that had consolidated during the second half of the twentieth century. We believe a research program, which we might define as "evolutionary pluralism" or "post-Darwinism," has been outlined, one that is centered on the discovery of the complexity and multiplicity of elements that work together to produce changes in our evolutionary systems. We are talking about a three-dimensional multiplicity: a multiplicity of rhythms in evolution (i.e., the theory of punctuated equilibria); a multiplicity of evolutionary units and levels (i.e., the hierarchical theory of evolution); and a multiplicity of factors and causes in evolution (i.e., the concept of exaptation). Although the reductionistic and deterministic view of natural history interprets the intelligence of evolution as a panoptic and executory rationality, evolutionary pluralism, going back to the original flexibility of the Darwinian opus, sees in the intelligence of evolution an ingenious m tis, an imperfect but very creative, craftsmanlike cleverness. The new metaphors of change introduced by evolutionary pluralism and the consequent criticism of the adaptational paradigm offer some very interesting spin-offs for the study of evolutionary systems in widely differing fields, from theoretical economics to the cognitive sciences. I propose a particular hypothesis concerning the possibility and usefulness of expanding the concept of exaptation into a general theory of developmental processes, both in biology as well as in the cognitive sciences.
Chapter
In this paper, I do three things. First, I show that it is not true that developmental biology has been always extraneous to the thought of neo-Darwinists, as it has become fashionable to say. Second, I maintain that developmental biology's broad absence from mainstream neo-Darwinism does not mean that development cannot be profitably and easily integrated with this view of evolution. Third, and most important, I argue that evo-devo is not simply developmental biology grafted onto evolutionary biology; rather, it deserves to be acknowledged as a research field of its own, with a specific agenda and a specific conceptual endowment.
Article
The core of the Darwinian cultural challenge is connected to three basic ideas, with experimental evidences and philosophical wide consequences: (1) the natural continuity between all living beings and their properties and behaviors, humans included; (2) the mix of historical unity and the production of diversity at level of both individuals and species; (3) the historical contingency and unpredictability of evolutionary paths. Darwin was aware of these consequences when writing, not yet 30years old, his first Notebooks on transmutation of species (1836–1844). Though not involved in public debates after 1859, he understood that his ideas were going to challenge a whole set of beliefs deeply rooted in Western traditional thought and probably, according to recent experimental studies in cognitive psychology and ethology, settled in the evolution of our mind itself. Two centuries after his birth, not only does Darwin’s heritage concern the content of his scientific research program, widely corroborated and usefully updated today, but also his innovative method of inquiry, and the emancipated “grandeur” of “this view of life” where from a simple beginning “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved”.
Chapter
In recent papers (e.g. Wilson and Wilson, 2007), it has been confirmed that the two standard solutions for the apparent paradox of the evolution of altruism and pro-social behaviours – ‘kin selection’, which leaves unsolved the question of population structure, and ‘group selection’ – can indeed be consistent with one other. The result is a possible explanation of the ambiguity between deeply entrenched attitudes to cooperation inside social groups and organized hostility among them (Bowles, 2008). Nevertheless, these models seem to undervalue the potential effects of ‘multilevel’ evolution and both notions remain strongly engaged with gene-centred interpretations of evolutionary dynamics – which lose their explanatory power when applied to group-living species that show unconditioned forms of altruism and pro-social feeling, especially when cultural evolution enters the process. In order to avoid ‘cultural discontinuity’ hypotheses at the other extreme, I emphasize the importance of ‘functional cooptation’, or ‘exaptation’ (Gould and Vrba, 1982; Gould, 2002) in arriving at a more satisfying explanation of the origins of free or reciprocal unselfishness, in group-living animals and in culture-bearing species.
Article
Adaptation has been defined and recognized by two different criteria: historical genesis (features built by natural selection for their present role) and current utility (features now enhancing fitness no matter how they arose). Biologists have often failed to recognize the potential confusion between these different definitions because we have tended to view natural selection as so dominant among evolutionary mechanisms that historical process and current product become one. Yet if many features of organisms are non-adapted, but available for useful cooptation in descendants, then an important concept has no name in our lexicon (and unnamed ideas generally remain unconsidered): features that now enhance fitness but were not built by natural selection for their current role. We propose that such features be called exaptations and that adaptation be restricted, as Darwin suggested, to features built by selection for their current role. We present several examples of exaptation, indicating where a failure to conceptualize such an idea limited the range of hypotheses previously available. We explore several consequences of exaptation and propose a terminological solution to the problem of preadaptation.
Book
This book, a collection of essays written by the most eminent evolutionary biologist of the twentieth century, explores biology as an autonomous science, offers insights on the history of evolutionary thought, critiques the contributions of philosophy to the science of biology, and comments on several of the major ongoing issues in evolutionary theory. Notably, Mayr explains that Darwin's theory of evolution is actually five separate theories, each with its own history, trajectory and impact. Natural selection is a separate idea from common descent, and from geographic speciation, and so on. A number of the perennial Darwinian controversies may well have been caused by the confounding of the five separate theories into a single composite. Those interested in evolutionary theory, or the philosophy and history of science will find useful ideas in this book, which should appeal to virtually anyone with a broad curiosity about biology.
Article
This paper discusses why hierarchy demands that sorting and selection be disentangled. It then presents and illustrates an expanded taxonomy of sorting for a hierarchical world. For each of three levels (genes, organisms, and species), we show how sorting can arise from selection at the focal level itself, and as a consequence either of downward causation from processes acting on individuals at higher levels or upward causation from lower levels. We then discuss how hierarchy might illuminate a range of evolutionary questions based on both the logical structure of hierarchy and the historical pathways of its construction - for hierarchy is a property of nature, not only a conceptual scheme for organization.-from Authors
Book
Imre Lakatos' philosophical and scientific papers are published here in two volumes. Volume I brings together his very influential but scattered papers on the philosophy of the physical sciences, and includes one important unpublished essay on the effect of Newton's scientific achievement. Volume II presents his work on the philosophy of mathematics (much of it unpublished), together with some critical essays on contemporary philosophers of science and some famous polemical writings on political and educational issues. Imre Lakatos had an influence out of all proportion to the length of his philosophical career. This collection exhibits and confirms the originality, range and the essential unity of his work. It demonstrates too the force and spirit he brought to every issue with which he engaged, from his most abstract mathematical work to his passionate 'Letter to the director of the LSE'. Lakatos' ideas are now the focus of widespread and increasing interest, and these volumes should make possible for the first time their study as a whole and their proper assessment.
Article
It is commonly acknowledged in science that model construction is one of the most important components of theorizing. Philosophers of science are gradually coming to acknowledge this situation, spurred on by holders of the semantic view of theories. In this paper I wish to defend a very deflationary version of the semantic view of theories, which is more or less a re-statement of the above commonplace. I reject the view encapsulated in the identity statement "scientific theories are families of models," although acknowledging the useful insights into science that holders of this strong position have given us. Journal Article