Philosophy of Biology

Spring 2014

Charles Darwin, Diagram of Divergence of Taxa

Part of Darwin's “Diagram of Divergence of Taxa”, the only diagram in On The Origin of Species. The diagram depicts “hypothetical phylogenetic relationships, showing how lineages diverge from common ancestors and give rise to both extinct and extant species. Time intervals (between Roman numerals) represent thousands of generations. [...] Distance along the horizontal axis represents degree of divergence (as, for example, in body form). Darwin recognized that rates of evolution vary greatly, showing this by different angles in the diagram” (Futuyma, 2009, p. 21). Note too that the diagram displays Darwin's recognition that it is the most divergent species that are most likely to survive. For the full diagram see here.


Details | Instructor | Overview | Textbooks | Assessment | Schedule

Details

Course CodesLocation Times
PHL 251, PHL 251W, PHL 451Dewey Hall 4162Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:25pm to 4:40pm

Instructor

NameEmailOfficeConsultation Times
Brad Weslakebradley.weslake@rochester.edu520 LattimoreWednesdays 11am–12pm, or by appointment

Overview

This class is an introduction to philosophy of biology focussing on issues connected with the nature and scope of biological explanations. We first examine a set of foundational questions concerning the nature and scope of the explanations provided by natural selection. We then examine the explanatory role of genes in development. No prior philosophy of science or biology will be assumed.

Textbooks

The following textbook is mandatory:

For those without any background in evolutionary biology, the definitive textbooks are:

  • Futuyma, Douglas J. 2009. Evolution, Sinauer Associates, Sunderland MA. [AddAll]
  • Ridley, Mark. 2003. Evolution, Blackwell, Malden MA. [AddAll]

Assessment

Requirements:

The final grade will be determined approximately as follows:

Reading Summaries: 15%
First Research Paper: 35%
Second Research Paper: 50%

Note: Graduate students or students enrolled for upper level writing credit will be required to write longer papers. Graduate students will also be required to do additional reading and meet for an additional discussion section.

Due dates:

Reading Summaries: At each associated class, with no exceptions
First Paper: Monday 10 MarchQuestions [PDF]
Second Paper: Friday 2 MayQuestions [PDF]

Paper guidelines [PDF]

Schedule

Meeting One: Introductory Discussion (Thursday 16 January)

Secondary

Meeting Two: The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness (Tuesday 21 January)

Primary

Meeting Three: Problems for The Propensity Interpretation (Thursday 23 January)

Primary
Secondary

Meeting Four: Selection Of and Selection For (Tuesday 28 January)

Primary
Secondary

Meeting Five: Replicators and Interactors (Thursday 30 January)

Primary
Secondary

No Class Tuesday 4 February

Meeting Six: What Can Selection Explain? (Thursday 6 February)

Primary
Secondary

Meeting Seven: Selection and Drift as Forces (Tuesday 11 February)

Primary
Primary

Meeting Nine: Selection and Drift as Causes (Tuesday 18 February)

Primary

Meeting Ten: Evolutionary Landscapes (Thursday 20 February)

Primary
Secondary

Meeting Eleven: Individuals and Reproduction (Tuesday 25 February)

Primary
Secondary

No Class Thursday 27 February

Meeting Twelve: Individuals and Collectives (Tuesday 4 March)

Primary

Meeting Thirteen: Review (Thursday 6 March)

Secondary

No Class Tuesday 11 March and Thursday 13 March

Meeting Fourteen: Altruism and Group Selection: Theory (Tuesday 18 March)

Primary
Secondary

Meeting Fifteen: Altruism and Group Selection: Examples (Thursday 20 March)

Primary

Meeting Sixteen: Two Kinds of Group Selection (Tuesday 25 March)

Primary
Secondary

Meeting Seventeen: Kin Selection and Game Theory (Thursday 27 March)

Primary

Meeting Eighteen: Selfish Genes and The Nature of Groups (Tuesday 1 April)

Primary

Meeting Nineteen: Darwinian Populations and Levels of Selection (Thursday 3 April)

Primary

Meeting Twenty: The Major Evolutionary Transitions (Tuesday 8 April)

Primary

Meeting Twenty One: Levels of Selection and The Major Evolutionary Transitions (Thursday 10 April)

Primary

No Class Tuesday Tuesday 15 April

Meeting Twenty Two: The First Transition (Thursday 17 April)

Primary

Meeting Twenty Three: The Gene's Eye View (Tuesday 22 April)

Primary

Meeting Twenty Four: Cultural Evolution (Thursday 24 April)

Primary

Meeting Twenty Five: Cultural Evolution (Thursday 28 April)

Secondary

Updated: 28 April 2014