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Biologists rely on theories, apply models and construct explanations, but rarely reflect on their nature and structure. Philosophy of Science for Biologists introduces key topics in philosophy of science to provide the required philosophical background for this kind of reflection, which is an important part of all aspects of research and communication in biology. It concisely and accessibly addresses fundamental questions such as: Why should biologists care about philosophy of science? How do concepts contribute to scientific advancement? What is the nature of scientific controversies in the biological sciences? Chapters draw on contemporary examples and case studies from across biology, making the discussion relevant and insightful. Written for researchers and advanced undergraduate and graduate students across the life sciences, its aim is to encourage readers to become more philosophically minded and informed to enable better scientific practice. It is also an interesting and pertinent read for philosophers of science.
1. Why should biologists care about philosophy of science? / Tobias Uller and Kostas Kampourakis
2. What constitutes an explanation in biology? / Angela Potochnik
3. What is biological knowledge? / Kevin McCain
4. What is the nature of theories and models in biology? / Emily Parke and Anya Plutynski
5. How are biology concepts used and transformed? / Ingo Brigandt
6. Why does it matter that many biology concepts are metaphors? / Kostas Kampourakis
7. How do concepts contribute to scientific advancement? Evolutionary biology as a case study / David Depew
8. How can conceptual analysis contribute to scientific practice? The case of cultural evolution / Tim Lewens
9. What methods do life scientists use? A brief history with philosophical implications / Erik L. Peterson
10. Is it possible to scientifically reconstruct the history of life on earth? The biological sciences and deep time / Carol Cleland
11. What is the basis of biological classification? The search for natural systems / Thomas Reydon
12. What is the nature of scientific controversies in the biological sciences? / Michael R. Dietrich
13. What is the relation between facts and values in biological science? Biology in society / Carrie Friese and Barbara Prainsack
14. A philosopher in the age of creationism: What have I learned after fifty years doing philosophy of biology that I want to pass on to biologists / Michael Ruse
15. How can we teach philosophy of science to biologists? / Kostas Kampourakis and Tobias Uller
Kostas Kampourakis is the author and editor of books about evolution, genetics, philosophy, and history of science, and the editor of the Cambridge book series Understanding Life. He is a former Editor-in-Chief of the journal Science & Education, and the book series Science: Philosophy, History and Education. He is currently a researcher at the University of Geneva, where he also teaches at the Section of Biology and the University Institute for Teacher Education.
Tobias Uller is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Lund University, Sweden. He works on the relationships between development, heredity and evolution, using an integrative approach guided by mathematical modelling and conceptual analysis. He has held fellowships in the UK, the USA, and Sweden, and was the 2018 recipient of the Tage Erlander Prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science for research in Natural Sciences and Technology.
- Tobias Uller
- Kostas Kampourakis
- Angela Potochnik
- Kevin McCain
- Emily Parke
- Anya Plutynski
- Ingo Brigandt
- David Depew
- Tim Lewens
- Erik L. Peterson
- Carol Cleland
- Thomas Reydon
- Michael R. Dietrich
- Carrie Friese
- Barbara Prainsack
- Michael Ruse
"As a philosopher and a biologist I have been waiting for a long time for a book like this to come out. My students will learn a lot from it."
– Massimo Pigliucci, K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy, City College of New York
"Philosophy of Science for Biologists is a much-awaited book written for biologists, mainly for curious and open-minded biology students. Presenting a broad spectrum of perspectives and many fascinating examples from all areas of biology, the fifteen essays in this book offer a broad and exciting vista of biological ideas, their scope, their ambitions and their potential prejudices. The essays illustrate how a multiplicity of perspectives and methodologies can be combined to answer difficult questions, encouraging cooperation, healthy skepticism and necessary optimism. It should be the basis of an obligatory course for all biology students."
– Eva Jablonka, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University
"Historically, few biologists have recognized the valuable contributions that philosophy could make to their field. Finally, that is starting to change. In this landmark collection of essays from leading thinkers, Kampourakis and Uller provide the clearest summary yet of the philosophy that biologists really need to know if they want to be outstanding scientists who see the bigger picture."
– Kevin N. Laland, Professor of Behavioural and Evolutionary Biology, University of St Andrews
"Biologists do not simply uncover knowledge about the natural world, they build it, using concepts and classification schemes to frame their observations and experimental tests, and sifting the results so as to explain certain aspects of that enormously complex world. In this unusual volume, Uller and Kampourakis – a leading evolutionary biologist, and an accomplished critic of science and science education – call on biologists to carefully examine not just what they think, but how they think, by directly engaging with the philosophical issues that are imbedded in their scientific practice. The book will be of unique value to working biologists who seek to clarify their scientific aims and sharpen their concepts, research approaches, and analytical tools."
– Sonia E. Sultan, Biology Department, Wesleyan University, Connecticut