2015 – “Are Natural Selection Explanatory Models A Priori?”

  • “Are Natural Selection Explanatory Models A Priori?” (escrito con José A. Díez), Biology & Philosophy 30(6) (2015): 787-809. DOI: 10.1007/s10539-015-9498-7. ISSN: 0169-3867 (Print), 1572-8404 (Online).

Abstract

The epistemic status of Natural Selection (NS) has seemed intriguing to biologists and philosophers since the very beginning of the theory to our present times. One prominent contemporary example is Elliott Sober, who claims that NS, and some other theories in biology, and maybe in economics, are peculiar in including explanatory models/conditionals that are a priori in a sense in which explanatory models/conditionals in Classical Mechanics (CM) and most other standard theories are not. Sober’s argument focuses on some ‘‘would promote’’ sentences that according to him, play a central role in NS explanations and are both causal and a priori. Lange and Rosenberg criticize Sober arguing that, though there may be some unspecific a priori causal claims, there are not a priori causal claims that specify particular causal factors. Although we basically agree with Lange and Rosenberg’s criticism, we think it remains silent about a second important element in Sober’s dialectics, namely his claim that, contrary to what happens in mechanics, in NS explanatory conditionals are a priori, and that this is so in quite specific explanatory models. In this paper we criticize this second element of Sober’s argument by analyzing what we take to be the four possible interpretations of Sober’s claim, and argue that, terminological preferences aside, the possible senses in which explanatory models in NS can qualify, or include elements that can qualify, as a priori, also apply to CM and other standard, highly unified theories. We conclude that this second claim is unsound, or at least that more needs to be said in order to sustain that NS explanatory models are a priori in a sense in which CM models are not.

Keywords: Natural selection – Sober – A priori explanatory models

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2013 – Bibliography of Structuralism III (1995-2012, and Additions)

  • “Bibliography of Structuralism III (1995-2012, and Additions)” (escrito con Cláudio Abreu y C. Ulises Moulines), Metatheoria. Revista de Filosofía e Historia de la Ciencia/Journal of Philosophy and History of Science/Revista de Filosofia e História da Ciência 3(2) (2013): 1-36. ISSN: 1853-2322. eISSN: 1853-2330.

Abstract

In two occasions a Bibliography of Structuralism has been published in Erkenntnis (1989, 1994). Since then a lot of water has flowed under the bridge and the structuralist program has shown a continuous development. The aim of the present bibliography is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the publication of An Architectonic for Science–structuralism’s main reference work–and of its recent translation into Spanish by updating the previous bibliographies with titles which have appeared since 1994 as well as before that year but which are not included in them. As in the former deliveries, this bibliography only covers books and articles that are concerned directly with the structuralist approach in the philosophy of science. We would like to thank the many colleagues who have helped us in collecting all the information. Notwithstanding we apologize in advance for the possible entries that we missed to include in this third Bibliography of Structuralism.

Keywords: bibliography – structuralism – philosophy of science

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2013 – The Semantic Conception and the Structuralist View of Theories: A Critique of Suppe’s Criticisms

  • “The Semantic Conception and the Structuralist View of Theories: A Critique of Suppe’s Criticisms”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 44 (2013): 600-607.DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2013.09.001. ISSN: 0039-3681.

Abstract

Different conceptions of scientific theories, such as the state spaces approach of Bas van Fraassen, the phase spaces approach of Frederick Suppe, the set-theoretical approach of Patrick Suppes, and the structuralist view of Joseph Sneed et al. are usually put together into one big family. In addition, the definite article is normally used, and thus we speak of the semantic conception (view or approach) of theories and of its different approaches (variants or versions). However, in The Semantic Conception of Theories and Scientific Realism (Urban and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989), starting from certain remarks already made in “Theory Structure” (in P. Asquith and H. Kyburg (Eds.), Current Research in Philosophy of Science, East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association, 1979, pp. 317–338), Frederick Suppe excludes the structuralist view as well as other “European” versions from the semantic conception of theories. In this paper I will critically examine the reasons put forward by Suppe for this decision and, later, I will provide a general characterization of the semantic family and of the structuralist view of theories in such a way as to justify the inclusion of the structuralist view (as well as other “European” versions) as a member of this family.

Keywords

Semantic conception of theories; Structuralist view of theories; Semantic family; Frederick Suppe; Joseph D. Sneed; Thomas S. Kuhn

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2014 – What is the Status of the Hardy-Weinberg Law within Population Genetics?

  • “What is the Status of the Hardy-Weinberg Law within Population Genetics?”, en Galavotti, M.C., Nemeth, E. y F. Stadler (eds.), European Philosophy of Science – Philosophy of Science in Europe and the Viennese Heritage, Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 17, Dordrecht: Springer, 2014, pp. 159-172. ISBN 978-3-319-01898-0.

The aim of this paper is to further develop van Fraassen’s diagnosis, expanding a previous analysis of the fundamental law of classical genetics and the status of the so-called ‘Mendel’s laws’. According to this diagnosis the Hardy-Weinberg law: 1) cannot be considered as axiom (or fundamental law) for classical population genetics, since it is a law that describes an equilibrium that 2) holds only under certain special conditions, and 3) only determines a subclass of models, 4) whose generalized form (and fundamental law) being shading off into logical vacuity, and 5) more complex variants of the fundamental law (and of the Hardy-Weinberg law) can be “deduced” for more realistic assumptions.

In order to achieve this, I will use notions of the structuralist view of theories, a version of the semantic view of theories that is related to but different from that of van Fraassen’s. These are the notions of fundamental law (or guiding-principle), specialization, and special law.

Having as a background a structuralist reconstruction of classical population genetics, I will show why the Hardy-Weinberg law should not be in fact considered the fundamental law of such a theory, but a special law (and not even a “terminal” specialization, i.e. a “non-terminal” specialization).

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2012 – Modelos, ejemplares, representaciones y leyes en la genética clásica

  • “Modelos, ejemplares, representaciones y leyes en la genética clásica”, Stoa 3(1) (2012): 137-157. ISSN: 2007-1868.

Tomando como punto de partida el análisis que realiza Kuhn de los libros de texto y su aplicación al caso de Sinnott y Dunn (1925), en este trabajo se discutirá el problema de la existencia de leyes en la biología. En particular, se mostrará, en consonancia con las propuestas de Darden (1991) y Schaffner (1980, 1986, 1993), la relevancia de los ejemplares, representados diagramática o gráficamente, en el modo en que se lleva a cabo la enseñanza-aprendizaje de dicha teoría y la práctica científica basada en ella, en la medida en que la información contenida tanto en unos como en otras, indispensable para el correcto desarrollo de ese proceso, excede la proporcionada por las “leyes” o “principios” lingüísticamente articulados y presentados en el texto. Sin embargo, se sostiene que ésta se encuentra presente implícitamente en la que, de acuerdo con el concepto estructuralista de ley fundamental y la reconstrucción de la genética presentada por Balzer y Dawe (1990), y posteriormente desarrollada por Balzer y Lorenzano (1997) y Lorenzano (1995, 2000, 2002a), pudiera considerarse la ley fundamental de la genética clásica, la ley de concordancia, claramente identificada en el presente trabajo.

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2012 – Introducción a La metateoría estructuralista en Xalapa

  • “Introducción” (escrito con Adolfo García de la Sienra), Stoa 3(1) (2012): 1-12. ISSN: 2007-1868.

Se trata de la Introducción al volumen temático La metateoría estructuralista en Xalapa de la revista Stoa.

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2013 – The Emergence of a Research Programme in Genetics

This paper has a double purpose. First, it seeks to expose some of the conceptual and methodological changes that took place within the study of the problems of heredity during the first decade of the twentieth century and lead to the appearance of the first defined research programme in genetics through the theoretical developments known by the name of “Mendelism” due to Bateson and his collaborators. Second, it seeks to characterize such programme.