Philosophy of Biology
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.
|PHIL-UA 91||Tisch Hall LC4||Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:30pm to 4:45pm|
|Brad Weslakeemail@example.com||5 Washington Place, 506||By appointment|
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.
The following textbook is mandatory (and is in the bookstore):
- Godfrey-Smith, Peter. 2009. Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection, Oxford University Press, Oxford. URI: http://site.ebrary.com/lib/nyulibrary/detail.action?docID=10288378. [AddAll] [Chapters 1-2]
The following textbooks are optional:
For those without any background in evolutionary biology, the definitive textbooks are:
- Fifteen 1–2 page weekly reading summaries.
- Two 8–10 page research papers.
The final grade will be determined approximately as follows:
|First Research Paper:||35%|
|Second Research Paper:||50%|
|Reading Summaries:||At each associated class, with no exceptions|
|First Paper:||Friday 7 November||Questions [PDF]|
|Second Paper:||Monday 15 December||Questions [PDF]|
Meeting One: Introductory Discussion (Wednesday 3 September)
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §1).
Section I: Natural Selection
Meeting Two: The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness (Monday 8 September)
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §2.1).
- Mills, Susan K. and Beatty, John H. 1979. “The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 46, No. 2, June, pp. 263–286. URI: http://www.jstor.org/stable/187048.
- Sober, Elliott. unpublished. “Two Fitness Fallacies”. URI: https://goo.gl/MNYMY6, §1.
Meeting Three: Problems for The Propensity Interpretation (Wednesday 10 September)
- Sober, Elliott. 2000. “The Two Faces of Fitness”, in Singh, Krimbas, Paul and Beatty (Ed), Thinking about Evolution: Historical, Philosophical, and Political Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 309–321.
- Sober, Elliott. unpublished. “Two Fitness Fallacies”. URI: https://goo.gl/MNYMY6, §2.
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §§2.2–2.3).
- Orr, H. Allen. 2009. “Fitness and its Role in Evolutionary Genetics”, in Nature Reviews Genetics, Vol. 10, No. 8, August, pp. 531–539. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nrg2603.
Meeting Four: Selection Of and Selection For (Monday 15 September)
- Sober, Elliott. 1984. The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, §3.2. URI: http://goo.gl/Xy123Q
- Fodor, Jerry A. 2008. “Against Darwinism”, in Mind and Language, Vol. 23, No. 1, February, pp. 1–24. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0017.2007.00324.x.
- Sober, Elliott. 2010. “Natural Selection, Causality, and Laws: What Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini Got Wrong”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 77, No. 4, October, pp. 594–607. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/656020.
Meeting Five: Selection Of and Selection For, continued (Wednesday 17 September)
Meeting Six: Replicators and Interactors (Monday 22 September)
- Sterelny, Kim and Griffiths, Paul E. 1999. “The Gene’s Eye View of Evolution”, in Sterelny and Griffiths (Ed), Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 55–76.
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §§2.4–2.6).
- Dawkins, Richard. 1982. “Replicators and Vehicles”, in King’s College Sociobiology Group (Ed), Current Problems in Sociobiology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 45–64.
Meeting Seven: What Can Selection Explain? (Wednesday 24 September)
- Forber, Patrick. 2005. “On the Explanatory Roles of Natural Selection”, in Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 20, No. 2, March, pp. 329–342. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10539-005-5588-2.
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §§3.1–3.3).
- Dawkins, Richard. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker, W. W. Norton, New York, Chapter 7. URI: http://goo.gl/GJVvsQ
Meeting Eight: Selection and Drift as Forces (Monday 29 September)
- Sober, Elliott. 1984. The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, Chapter 1. URI: http://goo.gl/K0Hxf1
Meeting Nine: Selection and Drift as Trends (Wednesday 1 October)
- Matthen, Mohan and Ariew, André. 2002. “Two Ways of Thinking about Fitness and Natural Selection”, in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 99, No. 2, February, pp. 55–83. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3655552.
Meeting Ten: Selection and Drift as Causes (Monday 6 October)
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §§3.4–3.6).
- Stephens, Christopher. 2004. “Selection, Drift, and the “Forces” of Evolution”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 71, No. 4, October, pp. 550–570. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/423751.
- Hitchcock, Christopher and Velasco, Joel. 2014. “Evolutionary and Newtonian Forces”, in Ergo, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 39–77. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/ergo.12405314.0001.002.
Section II: Individuals, Collectives, Levels and Transitions
Meeting Eleven: Individuals and Reproduction (Wednesday 8 October)
- Janzen, Daniel H. 1977. “What Are Dandelions and Aphids?”, in The American Naturalist, Vol. 111, No. 979, May, pp. 586–589. URI: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2460242.
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §4).
- Griesemer, James R. 2001. “The Units of Evolutionary Transition”, in Selection, Vol. 1, No. 1-3, January, pp. 67–80.
- Griesemer, James R. 2005. “The Informational Gene and the Substantial Body: On the Generalization of Evolutionary Theory by Abstraction”, in Jones and Cartwright (Ed), Idealization XII: Correcting the Model: Idealization and Abstraction in the Sciences, Rodopi, Amsterdam, Vol. 86, pp. 59–115.
No Class Monday 13 October
Meeting Twelve: Individuals and Collectives (Wednesday 15 October)
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §5).
- Hamilton, Andrew and Smith, Nathan R. and Haber, Matthew H. 2009. “Social Insects and the Individuality Thesis: Cohesion and the Colony as a Selectable Individual”, in Gadau and Fewell (Ed), Organization of Insect Societies: From Genome to Sociocomplexity, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, pp. 572–589. URI: http://goo.gl/wiUyfF
- Wilson, David Sloan and Sober, Elliott. 1989. “Reviving the Superorganism”, in Journal of Theoretical Biology, Vol. 136, No. 3, pp. 337–356. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0022-5193(89)80169-9.
Meeting Thirteen: Altruism and Group Selection: Theory (Monday 20 October)
- Sober, Elliott and Wilson, David Sloan. 1998. Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, pp. 17–35. URI: http://goo.gl/9n0ndD
- Okasha, Samir. 2004. “The “Averaging Fallacy” and the Levels of Selection”, in Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 19, No. 2, March, pp. 167–184. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:BIPH.0000024406.61340.6c.
No Class Wednesday 22 October
Meeting Fourteen: Altruism and Group Selection: Examples (Monday 27 October)
- Sober, Elliott and Wilson, David Sloan. 1998. Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, pp. 35–54.
Meeting Fifteen: Two Kinds of Group Selection (Wednesday 29 October)
- Okasha, Samir. 2006. Evolution and the Levels of Selection, Oxford University Press, Oxford, §§2.1–2.2. URI: http://goo.gl/dtLfWR
- Damuth, John and Heisler, I. Lorraine. 1988. “Alternative Formulations of Multilevel Selection”, in Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 3, No. 4, October, pp. 407–430.
Meeting Sixteen: Darwinian Populations and Levels of Selection (Monday 3 November)
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §§6.1–6.2).
Meeting Seventeen: The Major Evolutionary Transitions (Wednesday 5 November)
- Godfrey-Smith (2009, §6.3).
- Kuzdzal-Fick, Jennie J. and Fox, Sara A. and Strassmann, Joan E. and Queller, David C. 2011. “High Relatedness Is Necessary and Sufficient to Maintain Multicellularity in Dictyostelium”, in Science, Vol. 334, No. 6062, December, pp. 1548–1551. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1213272.
- Queller, David C. and Strassmann, Joan E. 2013. “Experimental evolution of multicellularity using microbial pseudo-organisms”, in Biology Letters, Vol. 9, No. 1, February, pp. 20120636. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2012.0636.
No Class Monday 10 November
Meeting Eighteen: The First Transition (Wednesday 12 November)
- de Duve, Christian. 1996. “The Constraints of Chance”, in Scientific American, Vol. 274, No. 1, January, pp. 112. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/scientificamerican0196-112.
- White, Roger. 2007. “Does Origins of Life Research Rest on a Mistake?”, in Noûs, Vol. 41, No. 3, September, pp. 453–477. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0068.2007.00655.x.
Section III: Development
Meeting Nineteen: Assigning Causal Responsibility (Monday 17 November)
- Sober, Elliott. 1988. “Apportioning Causal Responsibility”, in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 85, No. 6, June, pp. 303–318. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2026721.
- Lewontin, Richard C. 1974. “The Analysis of Variance and the Analysis of Causes”, in American Journal of Human Genetics, Vol. 26, No. 3, May, pp. 400–411. URI: http://goo.gl/Z7IIly
No Class Wednesday 19 November
Meeting Twenty: For Dynamical Systems Theory (Monday 24 November)
- Griffiths, Paul E. and Gray, Russell D. 1994. “Developmental Systems and Evolutionary Explanation”, in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 91, No. 6, June, pp. 277–304. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2940982.
Meeting Twenty One: Against Dynamical Systems Theory (Wednesday 26 November)
- Kitcher, Philip. 2000. “Battling the Undead: How (and How Not) to Resist Genetic Determinism”, in Singh, Krimbas, Paul and Beatty (Ed), Thinking about Evolution: Historical, Philosophical, and Political Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 396–414. URI: http://goo.gl/ptiwCw
Meeting Twenty Two: (Monday 1 December)
Meeting Twenty Three: (Wednesday 3 December)
- Griffiths, Paul E. 2006. “The Fearless Vampire Conservator: Philip Kitcher, Genetic Determinism and the Informational Gene”, in Neumann-Held and Rehmann-Sutter (Ed), Genes in Development: Re-reading the Molecular Paradigm, Duke University Press, Durham, pp. 175–198. URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/728/.
Meeting Twenty Four: (Monday 8 December)
- Waters, C. Kenneth. 2007. “Causes that Make a Difference”, in Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 104, No. 11, November, pp. 551–579. URI: http://goo.gl/Rebnd4
Meeting Twenty Five: (Wednesday 10 December)
- Woodward, James. 2010. “Causation in Biology: Stability, Specificity, and the Choice of Levels of Explanation”, in Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 25, No. 3, February, pp. 287–318. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10539-010-9200-z.
Updated: 1 December 2014