Friday, 31 October 2014

Oxford Philosophy of Biology Reading Group

Our provisional reading list...................

Inheritance and cooperation

This group will look at readings designed to give a rough grounding in major transition/cooperation theory, applied to humans and other animals, and to look at extending the current paradigm by incorporating insights from (i) evolutionary-developmental theory (ii) work on diversity in inheritance systems (ii) work on transmission of information in biology.

Fridays 1-3pm (please feel free to bring  sandwiches along)

Michaelmas term 2014

Meeting Room 4, Radcliffe Humanities Building.

Friday 24th Oct: Intro to major transitions
Szathmáry, E. & Maynard Smith, J. 1995 The Major Evolutionary Transitions’ Nature  374: 227-32.
Extra/background readings: Buss, L.W. 1987 ‘The Evolution of Individuality’ Princeton University Press. Pp. 169-97.
Samir Okasha 2005 ‘Multilevel selection and the Major Transitions in Evolution’ Philosophy of Science 75: 1013-1025.
Friday 31st Oct: Information in the major transitions
Jablonka, E. & Lamb, M. J. 2006 ‘The evolution of information in the major transitions’ J Theor Biol 239: 236-46.
Extra/background readings:  Sterelny,K., Joyce, R., Calcott, B. & Fraser, B. 2013 Introduction in Sterelny, Joyce, Calcott, Fraser & Joyce (Eds) ‘Cooperation and its Evolution’ MIT Press, pp. 1-11.
Friday 7th Nov: Units of selection
David Hull 1980 ‘Individuality and Selection’ Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 11: 311–332.
Extra/background reading: Lewontin, R. 1970 ‘The Units of Selection’ Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 1: 1-18.
Friday 14th Nov: Biological Altruism
Special Guest: Stu West
West SA, Griffin AS & Gardner A 2007 ‘Social semantics: altruism, cooperation, mutualism, strong reciprocity and group selection’ J Evol Biol 20(2). Pages 415-423.
Extra/background readings:
Okasha, S. 2013 ‘Biological Altruism’ in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.
Friday 21st Nov: Extra-genetic inheritance
Jablonka, E. & Lamb, M.L. 2007 ‘Précis of Evolution in Four Dimensions’ Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30: 353-92.  (NB Online version is followed by thirteen critical responses and then author’s replies).
Extra/background reading: Uller, T. &  Helanterä, H. 2013 Non-genetic inheritance in evolutionary theory: A primer
Friday 28th Nov: Biological information
Griffiths, P. & Stotz, K. 2013  ‘Genetics and Philosophy’ Cambridge University Press. Chp 6.
Extra/background reading: Bergstrom, C.T. & Rosvall, M. 2009 ‘The transmission sense of information’ Biology & Philosophy 26: 195-200.
Friday 5th Dec:  Transmission of biological information
Shea, N. 2012 ‘Inherited Representations Are Read in Development’. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):1-31.
Extra/background readings: Stegmann, U. 2013 ‘On the 'transmission sense of information'. Biology and Philosophy 28 (1): 141-144.
Friday 12th Dec: Varieties of inheritance
Special Guest: Nick Shea
Shea, N. 2013 ‘Two Modes of Transgenerational Information Transmission’ in Sterelny, Joyce, Calcott, Fraser & Joyce (Eds) ‘Cooperation and its Evolution’ MIT Press.
Extra/background readings: Jablonka, E. & Raz, G. 2009 ‘Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: prevalence, mechanisms and implications for the study of heredity and evolution’ Q. Rev. Biol. 84(2): 131-76.

Christmas break

Friday 23rd Jan: Varieties of inheritance
Special Guest: Tobias Uller
Shea, N., Pen, I. & Uller, T. 2011 ‘Three epigenetic information channels and their different roles in evolution’ J Evol Biol 24: 1178-87.
Extra/background readings: Helanterä, H. & Uller, T. 2009 ‘The Price Equation and Extended inheritance’
Friday 30th Jan: Niche construction theory
Special Guest: John Odling-Smee
Laland, K.N., Odling-Smee, J. & Myles, S. 2010 ‘How culture shaped the human genome: bringing genetics and the human sciences together’ Nature Reviews Genetics 11: 137 – 48.
Extra/background readings:
Stotz, K. 2010 ‘Human nature and cognitive-developmental niche construction’ Phenomenology and the cognitive science 9(4): 483-501.
Friday 6th Feb: More on niche construction theory
Scott-Phillips TC, Laland KN, Shuker DM, Dickins TE & West SA. 2013 ‘The niche construction perspective: A critical appraisal’ Evolution 68(5): 1231-43.
Friday 13th Feb:  More on niche construction theory
Powers, S. T., Penn, A. S., & Watson, R. A. 2011 The concurrent evolution of cooperation and the population structures that support it. Evolution, 65(6), 1527-1543.
Then Szathmary, E. 2014 ‘To group or not to group’ Science  334(6063): 1648-1649
Friday 20th Feb:  Evo –devo
Winther, R.G. 2005 ‘Evolutionary Developmental Biology meets Levels of Selection’ In Callebaut & Rasskin-Gutman (eds.) Modularity. Understanding the Development and Evolution of Natural Complex Systems. MIT Press
Extra/background readings: Uller, T. & Helanterä, H. 2014 ‘Towards an evolutionary developmental biology of cooperation?’ Forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.
Friday 27th Feb: Biological explanations
Laland, K.N., Sterelny, K., Odling-Smee, J., Hoppitt, W. &  Uller, T. 2011 ‘Cause and Effect in Biology Revisited: Is Mayr’s Proximate-Ultimate Dichotomy Still Useful?’ Science 334 (6062): 1512-6.
Extra/background readings: Mayr, E. 1961 ‘Cause and Effect in Biology’ Science 10: 1501-6.
Friday 6th March: Biological Explanations
Calcott, B. 2013 ‘Why the Proximate-Ultimate distinction in Misleading, and why it matters for understanding the evolution of cooperation’ in Sterelny, Joyce, Calcott, Fraser & Joyce (Eds) ‘Cooperation and its Evolution’ MIT Press.
Extra/background readings:  Sterelny, K. ‘Cooperation in a Complex World: The Role of Proximate Factors in Ultimate Explanations’ Biological Theory 7:358-67.
Plus something on explanatory integration for human behaviour
Friday 13th March: Cultural selection
Sterelny,K. 2014 ‘Cooperation, Culture and Conflict’ forthcoming in BJPS.
Extra/background readings: Tim Lewens 2013 ‘Cultural evolution’ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.
Friday 20th March: Game theoretic work on cooperation
Axelrod, Robert 1984 ‘The Evolution of Cooperation’ Basic Books. Chps 1 & 5.
Extra/background readings:

Easter Break

Friday  1st May: Signalling
Skyrms, B. 2010 ‘Signals: Evolution, learning and information’ Oxford University Press.
Extra/background readings:
Friday 8st may: Mechanisms for cooperation in humans
Special Guest: Celia Heyes
Heyes, C. 2013 ‘What can imitation do for cooperation?’ in Sterelny, Joyce, Calcott, Fraser & Joyce (Eds) ‘Cooperation and its Evolution’ MIT Press.
Extra/background readings:
Fessler, D.M.T & Quintelier, K. 2013 ‘Suicide Bombers, Weddings and Prison Tattoos: An evolutionary perspective on Subjective commitment and Objective commitment’ in Sterelny, Joyce, Calcott, Fraser & Joyce (Eds) ‘Cooperation and its Evolution’ MIT Press.
Thursday 14th May: Mechanisms for cooperation in humans
Special Guest: Robin Dunbar
Dunbar, R. & Shultz, S. (2011). Bondedness and sociality. Behaviour 147: 775-803.
Extra/background readings: Dunbar, R. (2012). Bridging the bonding gap: the transition from primates to humans. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 367B: 1837-1846.
Friday 22nd May: Inheritance in biology
Special Guest: Jonathan Birch
Birch, J. 2014 ‘Gene mobility and the concept of relatedness’ Biology and Philosophy 29(4):445-476.
Extra/background readings: Frank, S.A. 2011 ‘Natural selection III: Selection versus transmission and the levels of selection’ J Evol Biol 25(2): 227-243.
Friday 29th May: Cooperation and politics
Fowler, J.H & Schreiber, D. 2008 ‘Biology, Politics and the Emerging Science of Human Nature’ Science 322: 912-4.
Friday 5th June: Cooperation and Rational Choice Theory
Okasha, S 2007, ‘Rational Choice, Risk Aversion, and Evolution’. Journal of Philosophy, vol CIV (5)., pp. 217 - 235
Friday 12th June: Rethinking evolutionary theory? Possibly move this earlier?
Dawkins, R. 2004 ‘Extended Phenotype – but not too extended’ Biology and Philosophy 19: 377-96.
‘Does Evolutionary Theory Need a Rethink?’ Nature 514

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