Philosophy Of Biology / Edition 2

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Perhaps because of it implications for our understanding of human nature, recent philosophy of biology has seen what might be the most dramatic work in the philosophies of the "special" sciences. This drama has centered on evolutionary theory, and in the second edition of this textbook, Elliott Sober introduces the reader to the most important issues of these developments. With a rare combination of technical sophistication and clarity of expression, Sober engages both the higher level of theory and the direct implications for such controversial issues as creationism, teleology, nature versus nurture, and sociobiology. Above all, the reader will gain from this book a firm grasp of the structure of evolutionary theory, the evidence for it, and the scope of its explanatory significance.
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Editorial Reviews

Sober (philosophy, U. of Wisconsin-Madison) introduces developments in the philosophy of biology that have taken place over the past few years. He discusses both lofty theory and implications for such controversial issues as creationism, teleology, nature versus nurture, and sociobiology. In particular he sets out the structure of evolutionary theory, the evidence for it, and the scope of its explanatory significance. No date is mentioned for the first edition. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813391267
  • Publisher: Westview Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2000
  • Series: Dimensions of Philosophy Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,367,143
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Elliott Sober is Hans Reichenbach Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is editor of Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology: An Anthology and author of The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus, as well as many papers on the philosophy of science and of biology. In 1991 he was awarded the Lakatos Award for an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science for his book Reconstructing the Past: Parsimony, Evolution, and Interference.
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Table of Contents

List of Boxes
1 What Is Evolutionary Theory? 1
1.1 What Is Evolution? 1
1.2 The Place of Evolutionary Theory in Biology 5
1.3 Pattern and Process 7
1.4 Historical Particulars and General Laws 14
1.5 The Causes of Evolution 18
1.6 The Domains of Biology and Physics 22
1.7 Biological Explanations and Physical Explanations 24
2 Creationism 27
2.1 The Danger of Anachronism 27
2.2 Paley's Watch and the Likelihood Principle 30
2.3 Hume's Critique 33
2.4 Why Natural Selection Isn't a Random Process 36
2.5 Two Kinds of Similarity 38
2.6 The Problem of Predictive Equivalence 42
2.7 Is the Design Hypothesis Unscientific? 46
2.8 The Incompleteness of Science 54
3 Fitness 57
3.1 An Idealized Life Cycle 57
3.2 The Interpretation of Probability 60
3.3 Two Ways to Find Out About Fitness 67
3.4 The Tautology Problem 69
3.5 Supervenience 73
3.6 Advantageousness and Fitness 77
3.7 Teleology Naturalized 82
4 The Units of Selection Problem 88
4.1 Hierarchy 88
4.2 Adaptation and Fortuitous Benefit 95
4.3 Decoupling Parts and Wholes 98
4.4 Red Herrings 102
4.5 Examples 106
4.6 Correlation, Cost, and Benefit 110
5 Adaptationism 119
5.1 What Is Adaptationism? 119
5.2 How Genetics Can Get in the Way 123
5.3 Is Adaptationism Untestable? 128
5.4 The Argument from Complex Traits 129
5.5 If Optimality Models Are Too Easy to Produce, Let's Make Them Harder 131
5.6 Game Theory 136
6 Systematics 143
6.1 The Death of Essentialism 145
6.2 Individuality and the Species Problem 149
6.3 Three Systematic Philosophies 159
6.4 Internal Coherence 166
6.5 Phylogenetic Inference Based on Overall Similarity 169
6.6 Parsimony and Phylogenetic Inference 173
7 Sociobiology and the Extension of Evolutionary Theory 184
7.1 Biological Determinism 185
7.2 Does Sociobiology Have an Ideological Function? 194
7.3 Anthropomorphism Versus Linguistic Puritanism 197
7.4 Ethics 202
7.5 Models of Cultural Evolution 208
References 217
About the Book and Author 225
Index 227
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