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Evolution by Natural Selection: Confidence, Evidence and the Gap

Carefully reviews the logical basis of natural selection as a theory for evolutionary change
Proposes a theory of persistence as a way to explore why natural selection is an often misunderstood theory
Discusses aspects of the theory of natural selection that are not totally understood
Shows how misunderstanding of the theory creates problems in its use
Reviews the experimental tests of natural selection

Series: Species and Systematics (Productivity Press)

By: Michaelis Michael (Author)

175 pages, 6 b/w illustrations

Productivity Press

Hardback | Jan 2016 | #229601 | ISBN-13: 9781498700870
Availability: Usually dispatched within 7 days Details
NHBS Price: £57.99 $71/€65 approx

About this book

A persistent argument among evolutionary biologists and philosophers revolves around the nature of natural selection. Evolution by Natural Selection: Confidence, Evidence and the Gap explores this argument by using a theory of persistence as an intentional foil to examine ways in which similar theories can be misunderstood. It discusses Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, including what the theory says, what it aims to explain, and how it manages to explain natural selection.

Darwin's theory is so familiar today that it feels universally understood. However, the fact that there are such divergent views about the theory means that not everyone who thinks he or she understands it can be right. Evolution by Natural Selection describes the history of evolutionary theory as a sequence of theoretical developments, not all of which can be considered improvements. In particular, it suggests that some attempts to use the theory of natural selection end up reshaping the concepts involved so that they can be applied more easily to the world. As a result, the theory is stripped of some of its explanatory power and becomes detached from the empiricism that good scientific examination requires.

With these issues in mind, Evolution by Natural Selection shows there are aspects of the theory of natural selection that are not totally understood. These misunderstandings create problems in uses of the theory. At a time when selectionist explanations are being brought forward to explain an ever-widening range of phenomena, Evolution by Natural Selection analyzes the explanatory structure of Darwin's theory. It takes a much-needed thoughtful look into the working parts of the theory of natural selection to provide better understanding of the theory and its role in contemporary science and life.


- What Is Evolution?
- What Was Darwin Trying to Explain?
- References

The Circularity Argument
- The Simple Circularity Argument
- Modified Versions of the Circularity Argument
- Bad Reasons to Dismiss the Circularity Argument
- The Real Problem Raised by the Arguments: No Explanations
- References

Resolving the Problem of Circularity
- What Is Fitness?
- Fitness and Adaptation: The Key Concepts
- Fitness and Probability
- Rejecting the Idea of Fitness as a Probability
- Tendency to Survive—Fitness as a Disposition
- Defining Natural Selection
- Conclusion
- References

Darwin's Key Argument for Evolution by Natural Selection
- The Argument Darwin Uses
- A Proto-Theory of Natural Selection
- References

Explanation, Causation, and Counterfactuals
- Natural Selection as Explanation of Evolution
- Natural Selection, Causation, and Counterfactual Dependence
- Natural Selection and Functional Explanation
- Optimal Creation
- Functional Explanation and Counterfactual Dependence
- Does Chance Play a Role in Darwin's Theory?
- Extensionalist Reductionism, Causation, and Explanation: The Case of the Identity Theory of Mind
- Arguing against the Identity Thesis
- Skeptical Reactions
- Reducing "Being Unlocked": A Parallel Case?
- Functionalism and the Denial of the Identity Thesis
- Explanations and Reductions
- Genetic Determinism and Genetic Reductionism
- References

Philip Henry Gosse and the Geological Knot
- Expertise and the Openness of Scientific Knowledge
- Religion and Science
- Popper's Doubts about Darwinism
- Reconciliation by Displacement
- Is Evolutionary Theory Scientific?
- The Positivist Story: Inductive Logic and Confirmation
- The Paradox of Confirmation
- The Bayesian Response
- Karl Popper's Demarcation of Science
- Is Evolutionary Theory Falsifiable?
- Lessons about Falsification and Science
- Science and Evolution: What the Science Guy Could Have Said
- References

Heritability of Characteristics: The Role of Genetics and Epigenetics
- Genotypes and Phenotypes
- The Functional Relationship between Genotype and Phenotype
- Insulation: The Contrast between "Genetic" and "Environmental" Traits
- Genetics as a Mechanism of Heredity
- Heritability: Different Notions
- Genes as a Mechanism, not the Meaning of Heredity
- What Heritability Tells Us about the Genetic Perspective on Evolution
- What Does Epigenetics Do to the Theory of Natural Selection?
- The Nature/Nurture Debate
- English Is Biologically Heritable
- References

Concluding Remarks

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Michaelis Michael studied zoology and philosophy at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, before receiving his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University. He works across a number of areas in philosophy, from human rights to formal logic. He has recently published articles and contributed chapters on the role of noncognitive factors in religious conversion, on the metaphysics of the mind, and against the idea of adopting deviant logics to deal with inconsistent theories in science.

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