Research Products

Our group creates a wide variety of research products, including academic books and papers, materials for public audiences, and our blog. We also give talks to groups of specialists and the public, worldwide, and produce widely used open-source software. Check it all out below, as well as some metrics measuring our work's impact.

Books and Edited Collections

Under contract. Causes and Probability in Evolution [working title]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

An opinionated introduction to the debate over probability, statistics, and causation in the foundations of evolutionary theory, to be written for Cambridge’s Elements series.

Ramsey, G. & Pence, C.H., eds. . Chance in Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

An edited volume with contributions from philosophers, historians, biologists, and theologians on the role of “chance” in evolutionary theory.

Publications

Forthcoming (under contract). “How Not to Fight About Theory: The Debate Between Biometry and Mendelism in Nature, 1890–1915.” In The Dynamics of Science: Computational Frontiers in History and Philosophy of Science, Ramsey, G. & De Block, A., eds. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

A book chapter looking at the network of discourse in debates over genetics in the correspondence pages of Nature at the turn of the twentieth century.

& Forthcoming. “How to Do Digital Philosophy of Science.” Philosophy of Science.

Based on a symposium at the 2016 PSA, Grant and I offer some tips for those interested in engaging in digital projects in the philosophy of science.

Darwin had many influences, but perhaps the most significant on the structure of the Origin was Sir John Herschel’s Preliminary Discourse. I explore the shape and nature of that influence here.

& . The Economy of Nature: The Structure of Evolution in Linnaeus, Darwin, and Toward the Extended Synthesis.” European Journal for Philosophy of Science 8 (3): 435454.

We consider the status of the economy of nature as a structuring concept in biological theory, from Darwin to the present, with reference to current debates over structural realism.

. Is Genetic Drift a Force? Synthese 194 (6): 19671988.

A brief paper which considers two arguments against the tenability of considering genetic drift to be analogous to a Newtonian force – that drift lacks a specifiable direction, and that it is constitutive of all evolving systems, rather than an “external” force. In defense of the force metaphor, I find both these arguments to be problematic. ERRATUM: The Lewens (2010) citation should refer to “The Natures of Selection.”

, , , , , , , & . Cognitive Phenotypes and the Evolution of Animal Decisions.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31 (11): 850859.

Work with a group of biologists, coordinated through the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Offers a new framework for understanding animal decisions which takes into account insights from human psychology. The figshare data here describes a textual analysis that was removed from the article in draft.

& . “Chance in Evolution from Darwin to Contemporary Biology.” In Chance in Evolution, Ramsey, G. & Pence, C.H., eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press , pp.  111.

The editors’ introduction to our edited volume, covering the scope of the work and offering some thoughts on the taxonomy of chance in evolution.

& . evoText: A New Tool for Analyzing the Biological Sciences.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 57: 8387.

An application note introducing the evoText project, a text-mining tool for analyzing the biological journal literature.

An application note introducing RLetters, a tool designed to allow the textual analysis of large journal article corpora.

& . Is Organismic Fitness at the Basis of Evolutionary Theory? Philosophy of Science 82 (5): 10811091.

It is often claimed (e.g., in a recent article by Sober (2013)) that trait fitness is where the genuine “action” can be found in evolutionary theory, and that individual fitness is theoretically secondary. We clarify this relationship by distinguishing two roles that fitness plays in biology, and arguing that individual fitness lies at the conceptual foundation of ascriptions of the fitness of traits.

. The Early History of Chance in Evolution.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 50: 4858.

In this paper, I argue for a new understanding of the development of chance in evolution, from the from the work of Darwin through Galton to two of Galton’s students, Karl Pearson and W.F.R. Weldon. (Invited to appear in a special issue of Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science containing selected proceedings from &HPS4.)

A commentary on a framework for ethical decision making in military genomic research by Mehlman and Li, in which I argue that significant caution is required, thanks to conceptual results from the philosophy of biology on the relationship between genotypes and phenotypes.

& . A New Foundation for the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4): 851881.

We apply some results from mathematical biology to show that there is no reason to think that a modified formulation of the propensity interpretation of fitness cannot survive several common counterexamples to the traditional PIF.

& . Fitness: Philosophical Problems.” eLS.

An entry on the philosophical interpretation of fitness for Wiley’s Encyclopedia of the Life Sciences.

, & . MTBindingSim: Simulate Protein Binding to Microtubules.” Bioinformatics 28 (3): 441443.

An application note introducing MTBindingSim, a tool for classroom simulation of binding to microtubules.

& . Oyun: A New, Free Program for Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma Tournaments in the Classroom.” Evolution: Education and Outreach 5 (3): 467476.

An application note describing Oyun, software for running iterated prisoner’s dilemma tournaments.

. ‘Describing Our Whole Experience’: The Statistical Philosophies of W.F.R. Weldon and Karl Pearson.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (4): 475485.

I argue here for a new view of the philosophy of W.F.R. Weldon, distinct in interesting and important ways from the positivism of Karl Pearson.

. Nietzsche’s Aesthetic Critique of Darwin.” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 33 (2): 165190.

A reinterpretation of Nietzsche’s critique of Darwin, seen in the light of his early work on aesthetics. (Several of the Nietzsche citations in the published version are missing, despite my best efforts. The preprint has them all, for those interested.)

Book reviews

Reviewed work: Archibald, J.D. 2017. Origins of Darwin’s Evolution: Solving the Species Puzzle Through Time and Place. New York: Columbia University Press.

Reviewed work: Richards, R.J. & Ruse, M. 2016. Debating Darwin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

. The Many Chances of Charles Darwin [Essay Review].” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53: 107110.

Essay review of: Johnson, C. 2015. Darwin’s Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

. [Review of] Darwin’s Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin.” Reports of the National Center for Science Education 35 (6): 11.

Reviewed work: Johnson, C. 2015. Darwin’s Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reviewed work: Wilkins, J.S. 2009. Species: A History of the Idea. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Reviewed work: Müller-Wille, S. & Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg. 2012. A Cultural History of Heredity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

, , , and . A Path to Success? A Review of Evolution, Development, and the Predictable Genome by David L. Stern.” Evolution and Development 15 (1): 8082.

Reviewed work: Stern, D.L. 2011. Evolution, Development, and the Predictable Genome. Greenwood Village, CO: Roberts and Company Publishers.

, , , , and . [Review of] On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 86 (2): 137138.

Reviewed work: Boyd, B. 2009. On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

, , , , , and . [Review of] Elliott Sober: Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards? Philosophical Essays on Darwin’s Theory.” Philosophy of Science 78 (4): 705709.

Reviewed work: Sober, E. 2011. Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards? Philosophical Essays on Darwin’s Theory. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

, , , and . [Review of] Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 85 (4): 499500.

Reviewed work: Godfrey-Smith, P. 2009. Darwinian Popluations and Natural Selection. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Preprints

In preparation. Putting Process and Product Conceptions of Natural Selection and Genetic Drift to the Test.

This paper argues for two claims. First, the question of whether selection and drift should be defined as processes or as products is independent of their causal efficacy. Second, there exist biological cases that can be used to separate these process and product notions. Two cases presented weigh in favor of process definitions, though this does not suffice to resolve the question.

An examination of the relationship between Darwin and Herschel’s philosophy of science. I argue for a new reading of this connection, based on a careful reading of Herschel and his critiques of Darwin’s theory.

Talks

Upcoming engagements
  • “The Development of Darwin’s Views of Chance,” Center for Science Studies, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, October 10, 2018
  • “Causation and Metaphysics in Evolutionary Biology,” Philosophy of Science Association (PSA) 2018, Seattle, Washington, November 1–4, 2018
  • Chairing session: “‘Like Somebody Who Has Seen Thousands of Trees but Has Never Seen a Forest’: The Critical Role of History and Philosophy of Science in Science Education,” History of Science Society (HSS) 2018, Seattle, Washington, November 1–4, 2018
  • “Dual-Use Research and the ‘Scientific Community’,” Ethics/Philosophy of Technology Section, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands, November 12, 2018
  • Topic TBD, Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science Seminar, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, December 7, 2018
  • Topic TBD, Philosophy & Biology Seminar Series, PhilInBioMed, Université de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, March 5, 2019

I’m always interested in talking about my work to any audiences who would like to hear about it. Send me an email and I’d love to set something up.

Previous talks

C'mon, Neil! Why Good Philosophy of Science is Part of Good Science Teaching and Science

National Science Teachers Association Regional Meeting, 2017 | Conference Date: November 30–December 2, 2017 | Talk Date: December 2, 2017, 8:00am

Darwin and Evolution: Using Historical Critiques and Responses to Address Student Misunderstandings

National Science Teachers Association Regional Meeting, 2017 | Conference Date: November 30–December 2, 2017 | Talk Date: December 1, 2017, 9:30am

Archives to Networks and Back Again (keynote)

THATCamp HSS 2017 | Talk Date: November 12, 2017, 12:00pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Syntheses that Weren’t: W.F.R. Weldon on Chromosomes

ISHPSSB 2017 | Conference Date: July 16–21, 2017 | Talk Date: July 18, 2017, 9:00am

SlideShare Academia.edu

Theories Under Stress: The Evolution of Early Genetics

University of Leeds HPS Centre Seminar | Talk Date: May 24, 2017, 3:15pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Theories Under Stress: The Evolution of Early Genetics

University College London | Talk Date: May 17, 2017, 5:00pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

What Role for Fitness?

Deep South Philosophy of Biology, University of Alabama Birmingham | Conference Date: March 31–April 1, 2017 | Talk Date: April 1, 2017, 8:45am

SlideShare Academia.edu

Evolution and Chance

Darwin Day, Stephen F. Austin State University | Talk Date: February 10, 2017, 12:00pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Fitness and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory

London School of Economics | Talk Date: January 25, 2017, 5:00pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

evoText and Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of Science Association 2016 | Conference Date: November 3–5, 2016 | Talk Date: November 4, 2016, 1:30pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Charles Darwin and Sir John F.W. Herschel

CLMPS 2015 | Conference Date: August 3–8, 2015 | Talk Date: August 7, 2015, 6:30pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Prediction, Optimization, Chaos: The Role of Fitness

ISHPSSB 2015 | Conference Date: July 5–10, 2015 | Talk Date: July 6, 2015, 9:00am

SlideShare Academia.edu

evoText: A New Text Analysis Tool for the History and Philosophy of Biology

American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meeting, 2015 | Conference Date: April 1–4, 2015 | Talk Date: April 4, 2015, 1:00pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Is Organismic Fitness at the Basis of Evolutionary Theory?

Philosophy of Science Association 2014 | Conference Date: November 6–9, 2014 | Talk Date: November 7, 2014, 1:30pm
Later published as “Is Organismic Fitness at the Basis of Evolutionary Theory?”

SlideShare Academia.edu

Background: Attribution & Repression (in Cyberwarfare)

Cyberwarfare, Ethics, and International Humanitarian Law, International Committee of the Red Cross | Conference Date: May 21–22, 2014 | Talk Date: May 21, 2014, 2:00pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Models, Probability, and the Deep Past

Models and Simulations 6 | Conference Date: May 9–11, 2014 | Talk Date: May 10, 2014, 2:30pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Coming to Terms with Chance in Evolution

Louisiana State University | Talk Date: February 3, 2014, 11:00am

SlideShare Academia.edu

RLetters

NESCent Lunch Talk | Talk Date: December 5, 2013, 12:00pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Putting Process and Product Conceptions of Natural Selection and Genetic Drift to the Test

European Philosohy of Science Association 2013 | Conference Date: August 28–31, 2013 | Talk Date: August 30, 2013, 9:30am

SlideShare Academia.edu

Putting Process and Product Conceptions of Natural Selection and Genetic Drift to the Test

ISHPSSB 2013 | Conference Date: July 7–12, 2013 | Talk Date: July 12, 2013, 9:00am

SlideShare Academia.edu

It’s Okay to Call Genetic Drift a ‘Force’

American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Meeting, 2012 | Conference Date: December 27–30, 2012 | Talk Date: December 29, 2012, 9:00am
Later published as “Is Genetic Drift a Force?”

SlideShare Academia.edu

It’s Okay to Call Genetic Drift a ‘Force’

Philosophy of Science Association 2012 | Conference Date: November 15–17, 2012 | Talk Date: November 15, 2012, 2:00pm
Later published as “Is Genetic Drift a Force?”

SlideShare Academia.edu

Oyun: Prisoner’s Dilemma Tournaments in the Philosophy of Science

American Association of Philosophy Teachers 19th Biennial Workshop/Conference | Conference Date: July 25–29, 2012 | Talk Date: July 27, 2012, 10:45am
Later published as “Oyun: A New, Free Program for Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma Tournaments in the Classroom.”

SlideShare Academia.edu

The Early History of Chance in Evolution: Causal and Statistical in the 1890s

History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS) 2012 | Conference Date: June 21–24, 2012 | Talk Date: June 22, 2012, 2:15pm
Later published as “The Early History of Chance in Evolution.”

SlideShare Academia.edu

Software Demo: RLetters

Digital Humanities Summer Institute | Conference Date: June 3–10, 2012 | Talk Date: June 6, 2012, 8am

Academia.edu

Four Conflated ‘Chance’-Like Concepts in Evolutionary Theory

Indiana Philosophical Association | Conference Date: April 20–21, 2012 | Talk Date: April 21, 2012, 2pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

Biology Meets Metaphysics? The Causalist/Statisticalist Debate

PhiloSTEM-3 | Conference Date: April 13–14, 2012 | Talk Date: April 14, 2012, 1pm

SlideShare Academia.edu

The Early History of Chance in Evolution

Integrated History and Philosophy of Science (&HPS4) | Conference Date: March 15–18, 2012 | Talk Date: March 17, 2012, 11am
Later published as “The Early History of Chance in Evolution.”

SlideShare Academia.edu

evoText: Digital Humanities Meets Evolutionary Biology

Notre Dame Graduate Research Symposium (received two awards) | Conference Date: 24th February 2012, 2pm–5pm

figshare Academia.edu

The Conflation of “Chance” in Evolution

ISHPSSB 2011 | Conference Date: July 10–15, 2011 | Talk Date: July 11, 2011, 11am

SlideShare Academia.edu

The Statistical Philosophy of W.F.R. Weldon

ISHPSSB 2009 | Conference Date: July 12–16, 2009 | Talk Date: July 13, 2009
Later published as “‘Describing Our Whole Experience’: The Statistical Philosophies of W.F.R. Weldon and Karl Pearson.”

SlideShare Academia.edu

Outreach

Don’t forget to check out the blog!

Public talks
Media coverage

Code

Research metrics

Repositories: Academia.edu | ResearchGate | PhilSci-Archive | PhilPapers | SlideShare | Google Scholar
Google Scholar: 88 citations; h-index of 5 (as of April 19, 2018)
Scopus: 30 citations; h-index of 3 (as of April 19, 2018)
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6836-6047
Peer review: Publons