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Cosmides, Leda, , John Tooby. Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer
1997, Center for Evolutionary Psychology.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Patricia Rich

Abstract: The goal of research in evolutionary psychology is to discover and understand the design of the human mind.Evolutionary psychology is an approach to psychology, in which knowledge and principles from evolutionarybiology are put to use in research on the structure of the human mind. It is not an area of study, like vision,reasoning, or social behavior. It is a way of thinking about psychology that can be applied to any topic withinit.In this view, the mind is a set of information-processing machines that were designed by natural selection tosolve adaptive problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This way of thinking about the brain, mind,and behavior is changing how scientists approach old topics, and opening up new ones. This chapter is aprimer on the concepts and arguments that animate it.

Comment: This is an enjoyable introduction to the influential evolutionary psychology research program. It touches on many issues of longstanding interest to philosophers, such as the roles of nature and nurture and the normativity of abstract reasoning. I have used it in philosophy of biology and philosophy of social science courses. For more advanced students, it can be read together with Elisabeth Lloyd’s paper ‘Evolutionary Psychology: The Burdens of Proof.’

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Lloyd, Elisabeth A., , . The structure and confirmation of evolutionary theory
1994, Princeton University Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Carl Hoefer

Publisher’s Note: Traditionally a scientific theory is viewed as based on universal laws of nature that serve as axioms for logical deduction. In analyzing the logical structure of evolutionary biology, Elisabeth Lloyd argues that the semantic account is more appropriate and powerful. This book will be of interest to biologists and philosophers alike.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Lynch, Kate E., , . Heritability and causal reasoning
2017, Biology & Philosophy 32: 25–49.
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Hannah Rubin

Abstract: Gene–environment (G–E) covariance is the phenomenon whereby genetic differences bias variation in developmental environment, and is particularly problematic for assigning genetic and environmental causation in a heritability analysis. The interpretation of these cases has differed amongst biologists and philosophers, leading some to reject the utility of heritability estimates altogether. This paper examines the factors that influence causal reasoning when G–E covariance is present, leading to interpretive disagreement between scholars. It argues that the causal intuitions elicited are influenced by concepts of agency and blame-worthiness, and are intimately tied with the conceptual understanding of the phenotype under investigation. By considering a phenotype-specific approach, I provide an account as to why causal ascriptions can differ depending on the interpreter. Phenotypes like intelligence, which have been the primary focus of this debate, are more likely to spark disagreement for the interpretation of G–E covariance cases because the concept and ideas about its ‘normal development’ relatively ill-defined and are a subject of debate. I contend that philosophical disagreement about causal attributions in G–E covariance cases are in essence disagreements regarding how a phenotype should be defined and understood. This moves the debate from one of an ontological flavour concerning objective causal claims, to one concerning the conceptual, normative and semantic dependencies.

Comment: This paper discusses difficulties for determining whether traits like intelligence are heritable, drawing on philosophical work regarding causal intuitions. It’s accessible enough to use in a lower-level undergraduate course, but also generates good discussion in a graduate level course. It could be used to further a discussion about the nature of genes or in a discussion of philosophy of race/gender from a biological perspective.

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Millstein, Roberta L., , . Probability in Biology: The Case of Fitness
2016,
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Added by: Barbara Cohn, Contributed by: Anya Plutynski

Abstract: I argue that the propensity interpretation of fitness, properly understood, not only solves the explanatory circularity problem and the mismatch problem, but can also withstand the Pandora’s box full of problems that have been thrown at it. Fitness is the propensity (i.e., probabilistic ability, based on heritable physical traits) for organisms or types of organisms to survive and reproduce in particular environments and in particular populations for a specified number of generations; if greater than one generation, ‘reproduction’ includes descendants of descendants. Fitness values can be described in terms of distributions of propensities to produce varying number of offspring and can be modeled for any number of generations using computer simulations, thus providing both predictive power and a means for comparing the fitness of different phenotypes. Fitness is a causal concept, most notably at the population level, where fitness differences are causally responsible for differences in reproductive success. Relative fitness is ultimately what matters for natural selection.

Comment: I use this in discussions of natural selection and probability in evolution.
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Sterrett, Susan G., , . Darwin’s analogy between artificial and natural selection: how does it go?
2002, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 33 (1):151-168.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Susan G. Sterrett

Abstract: The analogy Darwin drew between artificial and natural selection in “On the Origin of Species” has a detailed structure that has not been appreciated. In Darwin’s analogy, the kind of artificial selection called Methodical selection is analogous to the principle of divergence in nature, and the kind of artificial selection called Unconscious selection is analogous to the principle of extinction in nature. This paper argues that it is the analogy between these two different principles familiar from his studies of artificial selection and the two different principles he claims are operative in nature that provides the main structure and force of the analogy he uses to make his case for the power of natural selection to produce new species. Darwin’s statements explicitly distinguishing between these two kinds of principles at work in nature occur prominently in the text of the Origin. The paper also shows that a recent revisionist claim that Darwin did not appeal to the efficacy of artificial selection is mistaken

Comment: This paper is useful in discussing Darwin’s theory as he presented it, i.e., without a knowledge of genetics. It could also be used in discussing analogy and/or metaphor in science.

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