ontologyofevolution

ontologyofevolution - 10/31/11 Ontology of Evolution:...

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10/31/11 1 Ontology of Evolution: Species and Units of Selection l It is really laughable to see what different ideas are prominent in various naturalists' minds, when they speak of b species ` ; in some, resemblance is everything and descent of little weight — in some, resemblance seems to go for nothing, and Creation the reigning idea — in some, sterility an unfailing test, with others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes, I believe, from trying to define the indefinable z (Darwin, December 24, 1856) Why does it Matter How Species are Characterized? Scientifically? – Understanding evolution – Using species as model systems Morally? – Is X a human being (in the moral sense)? – What obligations do we have to certain organisms? Public Policy? – Should we protect it? Size of the Problem Estimated number of species in different orders 5–10 million bacteria 1.6 million eukaryote species – 297,326 plants – 28,849 fungi & other non-animals – 1,250,000 animals • 1,203,375 invertebrates • 59,811 vertebrates: – 29,300 fish – 6,199 amphibians – 8,240 reptiles – 9,956 birds – 5,416 mammals
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10/31/11 2 Natural Kinds Kind defined in terms of essential properties – All and only entities with the essential properties are instances of the kind Essential properties explain the key characteristics of the kind From knowing the essence, we can predict the properties associated with the kind Species as Natural Kinds? Are any traits necessary or sufficient to species – Would a mutant lacking the traits be excluded from the species? – Would a mutant of another species that acquired the trait become a member of the species? – Are there any sharp boundaries between members and non-members of a species? Species as Individuals David Hull and Michael Ghiselin – Traditionally species have been construed as types or sets – But species are historical entities—they are born and they go extinct – In this, they are individuals —spatially, temporally extended entities – You and I are parts of the species homo sapiens, not members of it
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10/31/11 3 Surprising Consequences of Species as Individuals Individual species cannot be the subject of scientific laws If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, . . . , but was not born of a duck, it is not a duck – And if it is born of a duck, it is a duck even if it doesn ` t look like a duck, quack like a duck, . . . There cannot be ducks, or people, anywhere else in the universe – Even if they look just like us, and speak English Individualism and Human Nature Many people are deeply concerned to figure out what human nature consists in – Language? – Tool use?
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ontologyofevolution - 10/31/11 Ontology of Evolution:...

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