Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Introduction [NOOK Book]


Is life a purely physical process?

Does the theory of natural selection conflict with theism, and if so, how can we rationally choose between them?

What is human nature? Which of our traits is essential to us?

Biology is the branch of science most immediately relevant to many distinctively human ...
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Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Introduction

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Is life a purely physical process?

Does the theory of natural selection conflict with theism, and if so, how can we rationally choose between them?

What is human nature? Which of our traits is essential to us?

Biology is the branch of science most immediately relevant to many distinctively human concerns, so it is natural that it should be the site of great controversy and debate. The philosophy of biology addresses not only those questions which biology cannot yet (or perhaps ever) answer, but also the further questions about why biology may be unable to answer those questions.

In this volume, Daniel McShea and Alex Rosenberg - a biologist and a philosopher, respectively - join forces to create a new gateway to the philosophy of biology, making the major issues accessible and relevant to biologists and philosophers alike.

Exploring concepts such as supervenience, the controversies about genocentrism and genetic determinism, and the debate about major transitions central to contemporary thinking about macroevolution, the authors lay out the broad terms in which we should assess the impact of biology on human capacities, social institutions, and ethical values.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'A very impressive book. Coverage is complete without being overly encyclopedic and diffuse, and competing arguments are given fair and even-handed treatment.' - Gregory Frost-Arnold, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Alex Rosenberg is R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy at Duke University. He is the author of Philosophy of Science: a Contemporary Introduction (2nd edition, 2005) and co-editor with Yuri Balashov of Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Readings (2002).

Daniel W. McShea is Associate Professor of Biology at Duke University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements     xi
Introduction: what is the philosophy of biology?     1
Philosophy asks two kinds of questions     1
Philosophy and language     3
The agenda of the philosophy of biology     7
Darwin makes a science     12
Overview     12
Teleology and theology     12
Making teleology safe for science     16
Misunderstandings about natural selection     20
Is Darwinism the only game in town?     23
Philosophical problems of Darwinism     27
Summary     30
Suggestions for further reading     30
Biological laws and theories     32
Overview     32
Causation, laws, and biological generalizations     33
Could there be laws about species?     37
Models in biology: Mendel's laws, Fisher's sex ratios, the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium     46
Fitness and the principle of natural selection     51
Darwinism as a historical research program     58
Summary     62
Suggestions for further reading     63
Further problems of Darwinism: constraint, drift, function     65
Overview     65
Adaptationism-for andagainst     66
Constraint and adaptation     70
What is genetic drift?     76
Central tendencies, subjective probabilities, and theism     82
Function, homology, and homoplasy     87
Summary     94
Suggestions for further reading     94
Reductionism about biology     96
Overview     96
Reduction, eliminativism, and physicalism     97
Arguments for reductionism     100
Antireductionist arguments from molecular biology     105
Reductionist rejoinders     111
Multiple realizability, supervenience, and antireductionism     114
Self-organization and reductionism     119
Natural selection and reduction     124
Summary     125
Suggestions for further reading     126
Complexity, directionality, and progress in evolution     127
Overview     127
What is progress, and is it (or could it be) a scientific concept?     128
What does theory predict?     132
Some more specific proposals and their problems     138
Trends versus tendencies     147
Complexity and intelligent design     152
Summary      154
Suggestions for further reading     155
Genes, groups, teleosemantics, and the major transitions     157
Overview     157
Levels and units of selection     158
Kin selection and selection within and between groups     164
Macroevolution and the major trends: is group selection rare or frequent?     169
Genocentrism and genetic information     173
Teleosemantics: philosophy of biology meets the philosophy of psychology     179
Summary     184
Suggestions for further reading     185
Biology, human behavior, social science, and moral philosophy     187
Overview     187
Functionalism in social science     188
Evolutionary game theory and Darwinian dynamics     191
Evolutionary psychology and the argument for innateness     198
What is wrong with genetic determinism?     207
Darwinism without genes     212
Darwinism and ethics     218
Summary     224
Suggestions for further reading     224
Bibliography     226
Index     232
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