Keywords In Evolutionary Biology / Edition 1

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In science, more than elsewhere, a word is expected to mean what it says, nothing more, nothing less. But scientific discourse is neither different nor separable from ordinary language--meanings are multiple, ambiguities ubiquitous. Keywords in Evolutionary Biology grapples with this problem in a field especially prone to the confusion engendered by semantic imprecision.

Written by historians, philosophers, and biologists--including, among others, Stephen Jay Gould, Diane Paul, John Beatty, Robert Richards, Richard Lewontin, David Sloan Wilson, Peter Bowler, and Richard Dawkins--these essays identify and explicate those terms in evolutionary biology which, though commonly used, are plagues by multiple concurrent and historically varying meanings. By clarifying these terms in their many guises, the editors Evelyn Fox Keller and Elisabeth Lloyd hope to focus attention on major scholarly problems in the field--problems sometimes obscured, sometimes reveals, and sometimes even created by the use of such equivocal words. "Competition," "adaptation," and "fitness," for instance, are among the terms whose multiple meaning have led to more than merely semantic debates in evolutionary biology.

Exploring the complexity of keywords and clarifying their role in prominent issues in the field, this book will prove invaluable to scientists and philosophers trying to come to terms with evolutionary theory; it will also serve as a useful guide to future research into the way in which scientific language works.

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Editorial Reviews

Ernst Mayr
What a splendid idea to have a critical dictionary by established experts of the key words used in recent controversies in evolutionary biology. This helps the understanding of these controversies enormously.
Essays by notable historians, philosophers, and biologists identify and explicate those terms in evolutionary biology which, though commonly used, are plagued by multiple concurrent and historically varying meanings. These explorations focus attention on major scholarly problems in the field--sometimes obscured and sometimes created by the use of such equivocal words as competition, adaptation, fitness, altruism, character, and natural selection, for example. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674503137
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 8/19/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 0.88 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Evelyn Fox Keller is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at MIT. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and numerous honorary degrees.

Elisabeth A. Lloyd is Arnold and Maxine Tanis Chair of History and Philosophy of Science and Professor of Biology, Indiana University.

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Table of Contents




Evelyn Fox Keller and Elisabeth A. Lloyd

ADAPTATION: Historical Perspectives

Richard M. Burian

ADAPTATION: Current Usages

Mary Jane West-Eberhard

ALTRUISM: Theoretical Contexts

Alexander Rosenberg

ALTRUISM: Contemporary Debates

David Sloan Wilson and Lee A. Dugatkin

ALTRUISM: Some Theoretical Ambiguities

Marcy K. Uyenoyama and Marcus W. Feldman

CHARACTER: Historical Perspectives

Lindley Darden

CHARACTER: Current Usages

Kurt Fristrup


Peter Taylor

COMPETITION: Historical Perspectives

Robert McIntosh

COMPETITION: Current Usages

Evelyn Fox Keller


Michael Ruse


Robert N. Brandon


Michael J. Wade


Daniel J. Kevles


Robert J. Richards


John Damuth

FITNESS: Historical Perspectives

Diane Paul

FITNESS: Theoretical Contexts

John Beatty

FITNESS: Reproductive Ambiguities

Evelyn Fox Keller

GENE: Historical Perspectives

Jane Maienschein

GENE: Current Usages

Philip Kitcher


James F. Crow


Richard C. Lewontin


David Sloan Wilson

HERITABILITY: Historical Perspectives

Michael J. Wade

HERITABILITY: Some Theoretical Ambiguities

Marcus W. Feldman


Stephen Jay Gould


Diane Paul


Michael J. Donoghue


David L. Hull


Peter J. Bowler


Michael R. Dietrich


Elliott Sober


Douglas H. Boucher

NATURAL SELECTION: Historical Perspectives

M. J. S. Hodge


John A. Endler


Motoo Kimura

NICHE: Historical Perspectives

James R. Griesemer

NICHE: A Bifurcation in the Conceptual Lineage of the Term

Robert K. Colwell


Elliott Sober


Deborah M. Gordon


Richard Dawkins


John Beatty


Peter Abrams

SEXUAL SELECTION: Historical Perspectives

Helena Cronin

SEXUAL SELECTION: Contemporary Debates

Hamish G. Spencer and Judith C. Masters

SPECIES: Historical Perspectives

Peter F. Stevens

SPECIES: Theoretical Contexts

John Dupré

SPECIES: Current Usages

Mary B. Williams


James G. Lennox


Elisabeth A. Lloyd



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