Topics in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Fall 2010

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.

Details | Overview | Schedule [ 1 | 2 | 3 ]


Location Times
Hutchison 434ATuesdays and Thursdays 9:40am to 10:55am


A unit on philosophy of biology for a four-course sequence providing comprehensive coverage of advanced topics in ecology and evolutionary biology for graduate students in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Topic I: What Does Selection Explain?

Tuesday 30 November

Introductory Reading
Stephens, Christopher. 2007. “Natural Selection”, in Matthen, Mohan and Stephens, Christopher (Eds), Philosophy of Biology, Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 3, Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 111–127. [PDF]

Primary Reading
Walsh, Denis M. 1998. “The Scope of Selection: Sober and Neander on What Natural Selection Explains”, in Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 76, No. 2, June 1998, pp. 250–264. [URI]

Secondary Reading
Forber, Patrick. 2005. “On the Explanatory Roles of Natural Selection”, in Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 20, No. 2, March 2005, pp. 329–342. [URI]

Topic II: How Does Selection Explain?

Thursday 2 December

Introductory Reading
Fodor, Jerry A. 2007. “Why Pigs Don't Have Wings”, in London Review of Books, Vol. 29, No. 20, 18 October 2007, pp. 19–22. [URI]

Primary Reading
Fodor, Jerry A. and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini. 2010. What Darwin Got Wrong, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, Chapters 6–7, pp. 95–138. [PDF]

Elliott Sober. 2010. “Natural Selection, Causality, and Laws: What Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini Got Wrong”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 77, No. 4, October 2010, pp. 594–607. [URI]

Topic III: Where Does Selection Act?

Tuesday 7 December and Thursday 9 December

Introductory Reading
Lloyd, Elisabeth A. 2005. “Units and Levels of Selection”, in Edward N. Zalta (Ed), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, Stanford, 2005. [URI]

Revised version published as “Units and Levels of Selection”, in David L. Hull and Michael Ruse (Eds), The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007, pp. 44–65.

Okasha, Samir. 2008. “Units and Levels of Selection”, in Sahotra Sarkar and Anya Plutynski (Eds), A Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, Blackwell, Malden MA, pp. 138–156. [PDF]

Primary Reading
Williams, George C. 1966. Adaptation and Natural Selection, Princeton University Press, Princeton. [PDF]

Excerpts from Elliott Sober (Ed). 2006. Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology: An Anthology, 3rd Ed, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, pp. 79–98.

Wilson, David Sloan. 1989. “Levels of Selection: An Alternative to Individualism in Biology and the Human Sciences”, in Social Networks, Vol. 11, No. 3, September 1989, pp. 257–272. [PDF]

Reprinted in Elliott Sober (Ed). 2006. Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology: An Anthology, 3rd Ed, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, pp. 92–98.

Updated: 29 November 2010