PHI 3452Philosophy of Biology

 

Class meets 11:00-11:50  41/136

Instructor: Dr. Sally Ferguson

Office: Bldg. 50, Rm. 240

Phone : 474-2676

Dept. Phone: 474-2672

Office Hours: MW 12-2, and by appointment.

E-mail: sallyf@uwf.edu

Web Page: http://www.uwf.edu/sallyf/welcome.htm

 

Course Overview

This course deals with philosophical issues arising from evolutionary biology. It begins with a brief overview of the main features of evolutionary theory. We will discuss the basics of the theory as proposed by Darwin, as well as ways in which subsequent biology has elaborated Darwin’s theory. After this preliminary unit, we will examine two conceptual issues within evolutionary biology.  First we will discuss the “units of selection problem”.  Here the question is whether traits evolve because they are good for the individual, the group, or the gene. We will also examine how insights from developmental biology can inform this debate.  Second, we will study the debate over adaptationism.  Here the question is how much of nature's diversity can be explained by appeal to natural selection, and how much should be attributed to other factors. These questions crucially impact the final unit of the course, which is the application of evolutionary reasoning to human behavior, psychology, and culture. To what extent, if any, can human behavior, on the individual and/or collective scale, be understood from an evolutionary perspective? We will examine the nature-nurture debate as it is informed by evolutionary biology, as well as the currently fashionable field of evolutionary psychology. 

 

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES

Students will enlarge their understanding of the basics of evolutionary theory, the units of selection debate, the adaptationism debate, and the application of evolutionary reasoning to human behavior, psychology, culture, and morality.

 

Grading Policy, Attendance, Make-ups, etc.

The grade in this course will be determined on the basis three components: one take-home midterm (45%), one take-home final (45%), and attendance and class participation (10%).

            I expect each of you to have done the reading in advance of class, and to be prepared to contribute to the discussion of the material. There is no excuse for not doing the reading on a regular basis, and both your performance in class and your enjoyment of class will suffer if you neglect the assigned reading.  In class we will be discussing the issues raised in the reading, and expanding on them. The exams will focus heavily on material covered in lectures. Consequently, attendance is mandatory and will be taken, and this is the reason I have weighted attendance at 10% of the final grade.  It is the responsibility of the student to make sure he or she has been correctly listed as in attendance in the event of a late arrival to class. Chronic tardiness, however, is rude and inconsiderate to the rest of the class and to the instructor. I endeavor to reach class on time, and you should too. If you have a scheduling conflict, please discuss it with me.

            Unexcused absences are not permitted. Each unexcused absence will deduct 15 points from your attendance/participation grade. What this means is that if you miss class once without an excuse your attendance grade will drop to a B. If you miss class twice without an excuse, it will become a C-. And so on. What counts as a legitimate excuse is to some extent at the discretion of the instructor. However, legitimate excuses include documented illness (of self or dependant), court appearances, and the like. Make-up exams will only be allowed in cases of legitimate need, and authentication of excuse (by Dean or medical professional) will be required.

            Each student should retain all of his or her written work for the course until after receipt of the final grade.

            Plagiarism is an extremely serious issue to me. It strikes at the very heart of the intellectual enterprise in which we are mutually engaged, and undermines all of our collective efforts. As a result, I take all suspected cases of plagiarism seriously, and will punish them to the extent that the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies and University of West Florida policies allow.

Briefly, plagiarism is the failure to accurately and openly provide citations for either the ideas and words used in your written assignments. This includes lifting quotations without credit from books, magazines, newspapers or other printed material as well as “borrowing” from the Internet. It also includes presenting ideas as your own when they have in fact been derived from another source.

The Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies’ policy on academic honesty reads as follows:

 

Cheating on examinations and plagiarism on term papers will not be tolerated. When such behavior is documented, the instructor will assign an ‘F’ for the course in which the offense occurred. In particularly flagrant cases, the instructor may notify the Dean and the student’s major department and additional disciplinary penalties may be assessed.

In the case of written work prepared outside the classroom, presentation or paraphrasing the ideas of others is acceptable provided that the source is acknowledged. Additionally, the student should comment upon and interpret the ideas that he derives from others. In principle, it is better to be overly careful in acknowledging the sources of one’s ideas than to risk the charge of plagiarism.

(Quoted from University of West Florida, Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies, Academic Policies.)

 

The University’s plagiarism policy can be found in the Student Handbook under “Expectations for Academic Conduct” (available online at http://www.uwf.edu/uwfmain/stuHandbk/). More information can be found in the University’s handout on plagiarism titled “Plagiarism 101”, and from Professor Conroy’s website at

http://uwf.edu/sconroy/Papers/Plagiarism_and_Paraphrasing.htm. I urge anyone who is unclear about the standards for academic honesty to consult these excellent sources of information.

 

 

 

 

 

Required Texts AVAILABLE AT UWF BOOKSTORE

1. Sex and Death, by Kim Sterelny & Paul Griffiths, University of Chicago Press, 1999.

2. Sense and Nonsense, by Kevin Laland & Gillian Brown, Oxford, 2002.

 

 

REQUIRED READINGS AVAILABLE ONLINE

1. Paul Griffiths and Russell Gray: "Developmental Systems and Evolutionary Explanations” Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 91, no. 6, June 1994.

Available electronically at

http://www.jstor.org/view/0022362x/di973337/97p0109q/0

2. “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm:
A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme” by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. Available electronically at http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/evolution/history/spandrel.shtml

3. Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer, by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby.Available electronically at http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/primer.html

4. “Evolutionary Psychology: An Exchange”, by Stephen Pinker and Stephen Jay Gould.

 Available electronically at

 http://www.stephenjaygould.org/reviews/pinker_exchange.html

5. “Why humans value sensational news: An evolutionary perspective”, by Hank Davis and S. Lyndsay McLeod, Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 24, Issue 3, May 2003 Pages 208-216. Available electronically at

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10905138

(Follow link to Vol. 24, issue 3. Read the “Full Text + Links” version)

6. “The Memetic Origin of Language: Modern Humans as Musical Primates”, Mario Vaneechoutte and John R. Skoyles, Journal of Memetics, Vol. 2, Issue 2, 1998.

Available electronically at

 http://jom-emit.cfpm.org/1998/vol2/vaneechoutte_m&skoyles_jr.html

7. “The Evolution of Human Altruism”, by Philip Kitcher, Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 90, Number 10, October, 1993.

Available electronically at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-362X%28199310%2990%3A10%3C497%3ATEOHA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-X

8. “Explaining altruistic behavior in humans”, by Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd and Ernst Fehr, Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 24, Issue 3, May 2003, Pages 153-229. Available electronically at

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10905138

(Follow link to Vol. 24, issue 3. Read the “Full Text + Links” version)

9. “Darwin’s Nihilistic Idea”, by Tamler Sommers and Alex Rosenberg, Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 18, Issue 5, November 2003. Available electronically at http://www.kluweronline.com/issn/0169-3867.

 

Note: Some of the above links will only work if you are accessing them through a University of West Florida computer, because they require subscription to a certain journal (which the University has.) If you are trying to access them from home, and have trouble, try routing your search through UWF’s library. Begin your search at http://library.uwf.edu/. Choose the “full-text online” link under “Journal Articles and Online Databases”, and find the journal title that the article appears in. From there conduct a search to find that article. If you still have trouble, contact me and I can email you a copy of the article.

 

 

Class Schedule (Students are responsible for keeping track of any changes announced in class.)

 

Topic 1. Introduction to philosophy of evolution and structure of course.

Reading: Sterelny & Griffith, Ch. 1

 

Topic 2. Basics of evolutionary theory

Reading: Sterelny & Griffith, Ch. 2

 

Topic 3: Units of selection: the gene’s-eye view

Reading: Sterelny & Griffiths, Ch. 3,4

 

Topic 4: Units of selection: the challenge from developmental biology.

Reading:

1.       Sterelny & Griffiths, Ch. 5.

2.       Griffiths and Gray: "Developmental Systems and Evolutionary Explanations", available electronically at http://www.jstor.org/view/0022362x/di973337/97p0109q/0

 

Topic 5: Adaptationism

Reading:

  1. Sterelny and Griffiths, Ch. 10-11.
  2. “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme” by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. Available electronically at http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/evolution/history/spandrel.shtml

 

Topic 6: The Baldwin Effect

Reading: TBA

 

Topic 7: Applying evolutionary reasoning to human behavior: an introduction.

Reading: Laland & Brown, ch. 1-3.

 

Topic 8: Evolutionary Psychology

Reading:

  1. Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer, by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby. Available electronically at http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/primer.html.
  2.  Sterelny & Griffiths, Ch. 13
  3. Laland & Brown, Ch. 5.
  4. Evolutionary Psychology: An Exchange", by Stephen Pinker and Stephen Jay Gould. Available electronically at http://www.stephenjaygould.org/reviews/pinker_exchange.html

 

Topic 9: Memetics and the evolution of culture

Reading:

  1. Laland and Brown, ch 6.
  2.  “The Memetic Origin of Language: Modern Humans as Musical Primates”. Available electronically at http://jom-emit.cfpm.org/1998/vol2/vaneechoutte_m&skoyles_jr.html

 

Topic 10: Evolution of Morality

Reading:

1. “The Evolution of Human Altruism”, by Philip Kitcher, Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 90, Number 10, October, 1993.

Available electronically at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-362X%28199310%2990%3A10%3C497%3ATEOHA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-X

2. “Explaining altruistic behavior in humans”, by Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd and Ernst Fehr, Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 24, Issue 3, May 2003, Pages 153-229. Available electronically at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10905138 (Follow link to Vol. 24, issue 3.

 Read the “Full Text + Links” version.)

3. “Darwin’s Nihilistic Idea”, by Tamler Sommers and Alex Rosenberg, Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 18, Issue 5, November 2003. Available electronically at http://www.kluweronline.com/issn/0169-3867.

Take-Home Midterm will cover Topics 1-6, and will take place in early October. Provisional due date: October 13.

Take-Home Final will cover Topics 7-10, with perhaps some comprehensive questions. Due date at end of term; exact due date TBA.

 

Class cancellations:

 

Monday, Sept. 6: Labor Day

Wednesday, Sept. 22, Friday, Sept. 24, and Monday, Sept. 27: Instructor out of town at conference.

Friday, Nov. 26: Thanksgiving