The International Society for the History of the Philosophy of Science
Abstracts from the conference History of the Philosophy of Science 2008
“What Were Biological Laws?”
Chris Haufe (Virginia Tech)
Philosophical naturalism, the dominant biological research paradigm during and prior to Darwin's time (and of which he considered himself a member) had as its central preoccupation the discovery and formulation of biological laws. For most people in the field, biology’s future as a science was tethered to whether researchers could successfully formulate true biological generalizations (primarily with respect to biological form [e.g.]).
Whence this view of biology's scientific fate? The philosophical naturalists' picture of science was strongly (if not entirely) informed by the enormously influential views of leading Victorian philosophers of science, John Herschel and William Whewell, both of whom had argued that the discovery of (or intent to discover) laws of nature was essential to science. Darwin was deeply committed both to the maxims laid out by Herschel and Whewell and to the philosophical naturalists' biological mission.
However, contemporary biologists and philosophers of biology are generally skeptical a bout the existence of “distinctly biological laws” (Beatty 1995), a skepticism which they trace back to Darwin (in one way or another). I attempt to reconstruct the role of laws in the burgeoning science of pre-Darwinian biological theory and practice and argue that the types of scientific tasks for which putative laws of biology were used by the 19th philosophical naturalists, Darwin included, are still part and parcel of modern biological practice. This creates a prima facie plausible case for the view that Darwin's discoveries do not destroy the possibility of biological lawhood, and for the view that there are laws in biology.
“Darwin and Analogical Reasoning”
Marcus P. Adams (Western Mighigan University)
In this paper, I discuss Darwin’s analogy to artificial selection in the Origin. I consider whether we ought to view it as a search for a vera causa, and I conclude that we should not. I then discuss whether we should view the analogy as an argument from analogy. I argue that there are reasons why we should not view it as this either. I then encourage a view that has the analogy doing minimal work overall. I then provide a positive account which examines the pedagogical value the analogy had for Darwin’s readers.
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Darwin, Charles. “Essay of 1842,” in The Foundations of the Origin of Species: Two Essays Written in 1842 and 1844, Francis Darwin, ed. (New York: NYU Press, 1987).
Darwin, Charles. “Essay of 1844,” in The Foundations of the Origin of Species: Two Essays Written in 1842 and 1844, Francis Darwin, ed. (New York: NYU Press, 1987).
Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species, 1st edition (Cambride, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).
Del Re, Giuseppe. “Models and Analogies in Science.” Hyle: International Journal for the Philosophy of Chemistry 6.1(2000):5-15.
Evans, L.T. “Darwin's Use of the Analogy between Artificial and Natural Selection.” Journal of the History of Biology 17.1(1984):113-140.
Gildenhuys, Peter. “Darwin, Heschel, and the Role of Analogy in Darwin’s Origin.” Stud. Hist. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 35(2004):593-611.
Lloyd, Elisabeth A. “The Nature of Darwin’s Support for the Theory of Natural Selection.” Philosophy of Science 50.1(1983):112-129.
Loewenberg, Bert James, ed. Darwin, Wallace and the Theory of Natural Selection (Cambridge, UK: Arlington Books, 1959).
Peckham, Morse. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: A Variorum Text (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1959).
Rosenberg, Alexander. “Ruse's Treatment of the Evidence for Evolution: A Reconsideration.” Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980.1(1980):83-93.
Ruse, Michael. “The Value of Analogical Models in Science.” Dialogue 12(1973):246-253.
Ruse, Michael. Philosophy of Biology (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1973).
Ruse, Michael. “Charles Darwin and Artificial Selection.” Journal of the History of Ideas 36.2(1975):339-350.
Shelley, Cameron. “Analogy Counterarguments and the Acceptability of Analogical Hypotheses.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (2002): 477-496.
Sterrett, Susan G. “Darwin's Analogy between Artificial and Natural Selection: How Does It Go?” Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 33(2002):151-168.
Waters, C. Kenneth. “Taking Analogical Inference Seriously: Darwin’s Argument from Artificial Selection.” Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1986.1(1986):502-513.
Wilner, Eduardo. “Darwin’s Artificial Selection as an Experiment.” Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 37(2006):26-40.
“Teleology and Chance in the Darwin-Gray Correspondence: 1860-64”
James Lennox (University of Pittsburgh)
This paper reviews the core thematic elements in the correspondence between Asa Gray and Charles Darwin. We will start by reviewing the evidence that Darwin was a teleologist (presented in Lennox 1993). But what sort of a teleologist was he, and did his teleological perspective change over time? It will be argued that Darwin’s interactions with Asa Gray plays a significant role in modifying his understanding of the relationship between teleological explanation and chance. For both Darwin and Gray, a discussion of these concepts and their relationships had significant religious overtones. Gray’s New England Presbyterianism shaped his understanding of Darwinism and the positions he adopted in his discussion with Darwin about chance and design. Conversely, it will be argued, Darwin’s understanding of teleology and chance changed significantly as a result of his correspondence with Gray; and with that change Darwin’s theological convictions waned.
“Chance, Theology, and Evolution:
Conceptual Change in Darwin’s Understanding of Contingency”
John Beatty (University of British Columbia)
This paper concentrates on the development of Darwin’s thinking regarding the contingency of evolutionary outcomes, which went hand-in-hand with his struggles to make sense of the theological implications of evolution by natural selection. It will be argued that Darwin’s engagement with religious issues, especially through correspondence with Gray, was productive of further developments in his evolutionary thought. He did not simply derive theological consequences from previously arrived-at evolutionary premises. Darwin came to see considerable contingency in evolution by natural selection, long before subsequent Darwinians began to stress the Mendelian-stochastic sources of unpredictability in evolutionary outcomes. And he came to this highly indeterminist point of view in the process of contemplating a theology that would have made Gray’s hair stand on end, if Gray could have fathomed it, and that would bedevil Christian compatibilists up to the present day.
“Asa Gray’s Evolving Perspective on Teleology and Natural Theology”
Alan Love (University of Minnesota)
This paper focuses on how Gray’s understanding of teleology and theology evolved as a consequence of his discussion with Darwin, with special attention to Gray’s later writings (post-1873) and the role of his particular religious perspective (Presbyterian Christianity, in contrast to the British Anglicanism with which Darwin was familiar). Three elements of Gray’s writing are explored: (1) the interpretive framework used by Gray in his “Structural Botany, or Organography on the basis of morphology” (1879), which is significant given his 1874 Comment, “let us recognize Darwin’s great service to Natural Science in bringing back to it Teleology: so that, instead of Morphology versus Teleology, we shall have Morphology wedded to Teleology”; (2) the new essay (“Evolutionary Teleology”) written for his collection of previously published essays in Darwiniana (1876), where Gray explicitly distinguishes “purpose” from “design”; and, (3) Gray’s mature perspective on natural theology in his 1880 Yale lectures entit led “Natural Science and Religion”. Gray’s correspondence and published writing demonstrate substantial conceptual change in his understanding of both natural science and natural theology, including the famous argument about variation being led along beneficial lines that he is most associated with today. In addition to addressing the historical question of how the communication with Darwin transformed Gray’s thinking about teleology (and how this illuminates the impasse between Darwin and Gray on these topics), the significance of Gray’s final perspective on natural theology and natural selection for continuing philosophical discussions about biology, theology, and design is considered.
John Beatty. 1984. “Chance and Natural Selection.” Philosophy of Science 51 (2): 183-211.
———. 1990. “Teleology and the Relationship Between Biology and the Physical Sciences in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.” In Frank Durham and Robert D. Purrington, eds. Some Truer Method: Reflections on the Heritage of Newton. New York.
Frederick Burkhardt et al., eds. 1985-. The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Cambridge.
Charles Darwin. 1877. The Various Contrivances by which Orchids Are Fertilized by Insects. Second Edition. London.
Asa Gray. 1963. Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism. Cambridge, MA
Jane Loring Gray, ed. 1893. Letters of Asa Gray, 2 Vols. Boston and New York.
James G. Lennox. 1992. “Teleology”, in Evelyn Fox Keller and Elisabeth A. Lloyd (eds.), Keywords in Evolutionary Biology, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 324-333.
———. 1993. “Darwin was a Teleologist.” Biology and Philosophy 8: 409-422.