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Academic & Professional Books  Evolutionary Biology  Evolution

The Units of Evolution Essays on the Nature of Species

Out of Print
By: Marc Ereshefsky(Editor)
424 pages, illustrations
Publisher: MIT Press
The Units of Evolution
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  • The Units of Evolution ISBN: 9780262550208 Paperback Dec 1998 Out of Print #18174
  • The Units of Evolution ISBN: 9780262050449 Hardback no dustjacket Nov 1991 Out of Print #18173
About this book Contents Biography Related titles

About this book

The Units of Evolution is the first anthology devoted solely to the nature of species, one of the most hotly debated issues in biology and the philosophy of biology. The anthology is evenly balanced between biological and philosophical issues, making it equally useful for workers in both fields.

In his general introduction, Marc Ereshefsky sketches the framework for the debate, explaining how biologists disagree over the definition of the term species, and philosophers struggle to evaluate the scientific utility of a categorization device that might lack a single defining characteristic.

Essays in the first section offer various definitions of the species category, starting with Ernst Mayr's seminal work on species and including essays by Robert Sokal and Theodore Crovello, Paul Ehrlich and Peter Raven, Leigh Van Valen, Edward Wiley, Joel Cracraft, Brent Mishler and Michael Donoghue, Hugh Paterson, and Alan Templeton.

The essays in the second section focus on such philosophical issues as whether species taxa are individuals or natural kinds, whether a monistic or pluralistic approach to systematics should be adopted, and the distinction between species and higher taxa. Contributors to this section include Michael Ghiselin, David Hull, John Beatty, Michael Ruse, Elliott Sober, Philip Kircher, and Marc Ereshefsky.


Part 1 Biological concepts: species concepts and their application, Ernst Mayr
- The biological species concept - a critical evaluation, Robert Sokal and Theordore Crovello
- Differentiation of populations, Paul Ehrlich and Peter Raven
- Ecological species, multispecies and oaks, Leigh Van Valen
- The evolutionary species concept reconsidered, Edward Wiley
- Species concepts and speciation analysis, Joel Cracraft
- Species concepts - a case for pluralism, Brent Mishler and Michael Donoghue
- The recognition concept of species, Hugh Paterson
- The meaning of species and speciation - a genetic perspective, Alan Templeton

Part 2 Philosophical issues: the effect of essentialism on taxonomy - two thousand years of statis, David Hull
- Speaking of species - Darwin's strategy, John Beatty
- Evolution, population thinking and essentialism, Elliott Sober
- A radical solution to the species problem, Michael Ghiselin
- A matter of individuality, David Hull
- Species, Philip Kitcher
- Biological species - natural kinds, individuals, or what?, Michael Ruse
- Species concepts, individuality, and objectivity, Michael Giselin

Customer Reviews


Marc Ereshefsky is Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the University of Calgary.

Out of Print
By: Marc Ereshefsky(Editor)
424 pages, illustrations
Publisher: MIT Press
Media reviews

"Philosophers and biologists will find a great deal to think about in this collection. The essays raise fundamental questions about how species and higher taxa should be conceptualized. The implications for evolutionary theory and for philosophy are rich and variegated. This volume consolidates and promotes a symbiotic relationship between biology and the philosophy of science."
– Elliott Sober, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"The species problem is one of the few controversies in science to which both scientists and philosophers have made significant contributions. In The Units of Evolution, Marc Ereshefsky has collected eighteen of the most seminal essays on the topics. Both scientists and philosophers alike will find the subtle ways in which the scientific and philosophical issues intertwine fascinating reading."
– David L. Hull, Dressler Professor in the Humanities, Northwestern University

"The 'Species Question' is a problem which uniquely focuses the attention of biologists and philosophers. Marc Ereshefsky is to be congratulated on his comprehensive collection. It will be a handy reference for established scholars and an excellent introduction for those new to the subject."
– Michael Ruse, Professor Philosophy and Zoology, University of Guelph

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