Evolution, Explanation, Ethics and Aesthetics - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128036938, 9780128037317

Evolution, Explanation, Ethics and Aesthetics

1st Edition

Towards a Philosophy of Biology

Authors: Francisco J. Ayala
eBook ISBN: 9780128037317
Paperback ISBN: 9780128036938
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 19th July 2016
Page Count: 420
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Evolution, Explanation, Ethics and Aesthetics: Towards a Philosophy of Biology focuses on the dominant biological topic of evolution. It deals with the prevailing philosophical themes of how to explain the adaptation of organisms, the interplay of chance and necessity, and the recurrent topics of emergence, reductionism, and progress. In addition, the extensively treated topic of how to explain human nature as a result of natural processes and the encompassed issues of the foundations of morality and the brain-to-mind transformation is discussed.

The philosophy of biology is a rapidly expanding field, not more than half a century old at most, and to a large extent is replacing the interest in the philosophy of physics that prevailed in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. Few texts available have the benefit of being written by an eminent biologist who happens to be also a philosopher, as in this work.

This book is a useful resource for seminar courses and college courses on the philosophy of biology. Researchers, academics, and students in evolutionary biology, behavior, genetics, and biodiversity will also be interested in this work, as will those in human biology and issues such as ethics, religion, and the human mind, along with professional philosophers of science and those concerned with such issues as whether evolution is compatible with religion and/or where morality comes from.

Key Features

  • Presents the unique perspective of a distinguished biologist with extensive experience in the field who has published much about the subject in a wide variety of journals and edited volumes
  • Covers the philosophical issues related to evolution and biology in an approachable and readable style
  • Includes the most up-to-date treatment of this burgeoning, exciting field within biology
  • Provides the ideal guide for researchers, academics, and students in evolutionary biology, behavior, genetics, and biodiversity


Biologists, evolutionary biologists, developmental biologists, and researchers in genetics, medicine, paleontology, ethology, anthropology, psychology, and sociology, as well as students and academics in these areas.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Part I. Evolution
    • Chapter 1. The Darwinian Revolution
      • Introduction
      • Greek Antiquity
      • Christianity and Europe Until Darwin
      • Charles Darwin
      • Copernicus and Darwin
      • Darwin's Theory
      • Darwin and Wallace
      • The Darwinian Aftermath
      • Darwin and Mendel
      • The Synthetic Theory
      • Molecular Biology
      • Earth Sciences, Biogeography, and Ecology
      • The Origin of Species
    • Chapter 2. Evolution Is a “Fact”
      • Introduction
      • The Universe
      • Biological Evolution
      • The “Fact” of Biological Evolution
      • The Fossil Record
      • Archaeopteryx and Tiktaalik
      • Extinction
      • Anatomical Similarities
      • Embryonic Similarities and Vestiges
      • Biogeography
      • Hawaii's Biological Cauldron
      • Molecular Biology
    • Chapter 3. Life's Origin
      • Introduction
      • The Unity of Life
      • Early Life
      • What Is Life?
      • Life in the Laboratory?
      • Heredity
      • Origins
    • Chapter 4. LUCA and the Tree of Life
      • Introduction
      • Taxonomy
      • Homology and Analogy
      • Molecular Biology
      • Cladogenesis and Anagenesis: Evolutionary Trees
      • Evaluation of Evolutionary Trees
      • The Molecular Clock
      • The Neutrality Theory of Molecular Evolution
    • Chapter 5. Three Grand Challenges of Human Biology
      • Introduction
      • Life to Human
      • Human Origins
      • The Human Genome Sequence
      • Beyond the Human Genome
      • Ontogenetic Decoding
      • The Brain–Mind Puzzle
      • The Ape-to-Human Transformation
      • Biological Evolution Versus Cultural Evolution
  • Part II. Explanation
    • Chapter 6. Design Without Designer
      • Introduction
      • The Argument From Design
      • Emergence of Modern Science
      • Darwin's Discovery
      • Natural Selection as a “Design” Process
      • Mathematical Challenges
      • Design and Chance
      • Evidence of Evolution
      • Defects, Deficiencies, and Dysfunctions
      • Powers and Limits of Science
    • Chapter 7. Adaptation and Novelty: Teleological Explanations in Evolutionary Biology
      • Introduction
      • Teleology
      • Teleological Explanations: A Definition
      • Teleological Features and Behaviors in Organisms
      • Proximate Versus Ultimate Teleology
      • Natural Versus Artificial Teleology
      • Determinate Versus Indeterminate Teleology
      • Objections and Responses
      • Teleology and Causality
      • Teleological Explanations Are Testable Hypotheses
      • Utility as Touchstone Criterion
      • Teleology Versus Teleonomy: Cicero's Translation of Aristotle's Aition
      • Ernst Mayr (1998) on Teleology
    • Chapter 8. Evolution and Progress
      • Introduction
      • Early Ideas
      • Evolutionary Progress
      • Change, Evolution, Direction
      • The Concept of Progress
      • Evolutionary Progress
      • The Expansion of Life
      • Standards of Progress
      • Information Processing
      • Concluding Observations
    • Chapter 9. The Scientific Method
      • Introduction
      • Beyond Inductivism
      • Scientific Knowledge
      • Induction in Science
      • The Hypothetico-Deductive Method
      • The Criterion of Demarcation
      • Verifiability and Falsifiability
      • Empirical Content or “Truthfulness”
      • Contingency and Certainty
      • “Fact” and “Theory” in Scientific Use
      • Error and Fraud in Science
      • The Scientific Method in Practice
      • A Historical Paradigm: Mendel's Discovery of the Laws of Heredity
      • Destruction of Knowledge by Ideology: Lysenko and Genetics in the Soviet Union
      • The Curious Case of Darwin, or the Discrepancy Between What Scientists Say and What They Do
      • Theory Replacement: Phlogiston and Lavoisier
      • Theory Replacement: Newtonian Mechanics and Einstein
      • Hurried Science: Robert Koch's Failed Tuberculosis Vaccine
      • Explanatory Context of Discovery, or Why Empirical Testing Is Not Enough: Avery's DNA and Wegener's Continental Drift
      • Social Mechanisms: Peer Review and Publication
    • Chapter 10. Reduction and Emergence
      • Introduction
      • Reductionism
      • Three Issues: Ontological, Methodological, and Epistemological Reduction
      • Ontological Reduction
      • Methodological Reduction
      • Epistemological Reduction
      • Emergence
      • Conditions for Epistemological Reduction
      • From Biology to Physics?
      • Consciousness and the Brain
    • Chapter 11. Microevolution and Macroevolution: A New Evolutionary Synthesis?
      • Introduction
      • Rectangular Evolution Versus Gradualism
      • The Theory of Evolution
      • Gould's Theory
      • The Autonomy of Macroevolution
  • Part III. Ethics, Aesthetics, and Religion
    • Chapter 12. Ethics
      • Introduction
      • Darwin and the Moral Sense
      • Moral Behavior Versus Moral Norms
      • Darwinian Aftermath
      • Moral Behavior as Rational Behavior
      • Conditions for Ethical Behavior
      • Adaptation or Exaptation?
      • Altruism and Group Selection
      • Whence Moral Codes?
      • Sociobiology's Account of Moral Behavior
      • Altruism: Biological and Moral
      • Gene–Culture Coevolution
    • Chapter 13. Aesthetics
      • Introduction
      • Origins
      • Oldowan and Acheulean Cultures
      • Mousterian Culture and Neanderthals
      • Symbolism and Aesthetics: Aurignacian and Magdalenian Cultures
    • Chapter 14. Religion
      • Introduction
      • Religion
      • Creation
      • God's World
      • Natural Theology
      • The Bridgewater Treatises
      • Organisms
      • Copernicus and Darwin
      • Evolution and the Bible
      • Evil, Pain, and Sin
      • Evolution's Account
      • The New Atheists
      • Evolution and Faith
    • Chapter 15. Law and the Courts
      • Introduction
      • Science and the Courts
      • The Frye Decision: Seven Decades Without Appropriate Science
      • Daubert: A New Focus on Scientific Knowledge
      • Determining Scientific Validity
      • Scientific Criteria for Scientific Claims
      • Science in the Courts
      • Examples of Good Science: Gregor Mendel
      • Good and Bad Science: Robert Koch and Tuberculosis
      • Institutional Mechanisms
      • Concern for Rejecting Ideas That Are Right
      • Daubert's Aftermath
    • Chapter 16. Intelligent Design
      • Introduction
      • The Design Argument
      • The Design Argument in Antiquity
      • Christian and Islam Authors
      • Hume's Critique
      • Natural Theology
      • A Political Move
      • Mollusks' Eyes
      • No Evidence, No Science
      • Bacterial Flagellum, Blood Clotting, Immune System
      • Gambling Without Natural Selection
      • Counterpoint
      • Creationism
    • Chapter 17. Human Evolution, Genetic Engineering, and Cloning
      • Introduction
      • Human Origins
      • Cultural Evolution
      • Biological Evolution in Modern Humans
      • Future Natural Selection
      • Genetic Disorders
      • The Future
      • Genetic Therapy
      • H. J. Muller's Forecast
      • Cloning
      • The Genotype and the Individual
      • Cloning Humans?
      • Therapeutic Cloning
  • Glossary
  • References
  • Index


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© Academic Press 2016
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About the Author

Francisco J. Ayala

Francisco J. Ayala is University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Ayala is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a recipient of the 2001 National Medal of Science, and served as Chair of the Authoring Committee of Science, Evolution, and Creationism, jointly published in 2008 by the NAS and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ayala has received numerous awards, including the 2010 Templeton Prize for “exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” and 23 honorary degrees from universities in ten countries. He has been President and Chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and President of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society of the United States. Dr. Ayala has written numerous books and articles about the intersection of science and religion, including Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion (Joseph Henry Press, 2007), Am I a Monkey? (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), and The Big Questions. Evolution (Quercus, 2012). He is also the author, with Camilo J. Cela-Conde, of Human Evolution. Trails from the Past (Oxford University Press, 2007). He teaches classes in evolution, genetics, and the philosophy of biology, which are also the subjects of his research.

Affiliations and Expertise

School of Biological Sciences, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA


"This splendid book,...is a distillation of a lifetime’s experience as a practicing scientist and metaphysical reflection on his own work and that of others...Above all, the book is wonderfully comprehensive." --The Quarterly Review of Biology