- This entry in the SEP explores the structure of scientific theories from the perspective of three major positions: the Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic Views. These views have decidedly different implications about how best to characterize the composition and function of theories, how to link up theory with the world, and how one should go about describing or reconstructing a theory. In fact, they do not even agree on which aspects of scientific practice must be accounted for when providing an analysis of scientific theories. However, it is suggested that further work in this area may show that these three viewpoints are best understood, not as competitors, but as complimentary tools within the philosopher’s toolbox.
2015. "Race and Biology," The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race (Linda Alcoff, Luvell Anderson, and Paul Taylor, eds.), Routledge, London. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
- The ontology of race is replete with moral, political, and scientific implications. This book chapter surveys proposals about the reality of race, distinguishing among three levels of analysis: biogenomic, biological, and social. The relatively homogeneous structure of human genetic variation casts doubt upon the practice of postulating distinct biogenomic races that might be mapped onto socially recognized race categories.
2015. "Genomics and Philosophy of Race," Special Issue for Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, Part C. Co-edited with Roberta Millstein and Rasmus Nielsen. Contributors include: Jonathan M. Kaplan, Massimo Pigliucci, Noah Rosenberg, Quayshawn Spencer, the three co-editors, and others.
- This co-authored article distinguishes three different kinds of populations in studies of ecology and evolution: theoretical, laboratory, and natural (as exemplified by the work of R. A. Fisher, Thomas Park, and David Lack, respectively). We adduce three examples in order to examine the interplay between these different kinds of populations: first, the notion of “effective” population size; second, the work of Thomas Park on Tribolium populations; and third, model-based clustering algorithms such as STRUCTURE. We conclude by discussing ways to move safely between the three population types while avoiding the mistake of confusing models with reality.
- This piece examines how hegemonic power is graphically represented through maps that place the seat of a nation or empire at the center – a complex set of representational practices that has been baptized the “omphalos syndrome.” Such mapping practices demonstrate that “the habit of equating one’s age with the apogee of civilization, one’s town with the hub of the universe, one’s horizons with the limits of human awareness, is paradoxically widespread” (Levin 1963, 268). In fact, although the omphalos syndrome is most obviously exhibited by powerful empires, it could be argued that this form of thinking is an inescapable feature of culture in general.
2014. Determinism and Total Explanation in the Biological and Behavioral Sciences. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
- Which methods are available for studying such complex and multi-factorial phenomena as sexuality, intelligence, and autism, and is there any way of aggregating multiple perspectives so as to arrive at a “total explanation”? This article explores thinking about causation in the temporal evolution of biological and behavioral systems, with special attention paid to statistical methods and the role of determinism. In the end, it is suggested that apparently incommensurable projects and methodologies might in fact produce a “floodlight” vision of reality constituted by various particular “spotlights.”
2014. With Carlos Montemayor. Review of Stanislas Dehaene and Elizabeth Brannon Space, Time and Number in the Brain. Searching for the Foundations of Mathematical Thought. (Academic Press; Elsevier), The Mathematical Intelligencer. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
- This co-written piece reviews Dehaene and Brannon’s book about the neurological and psychological foundations of mathematical cognition. This anthology searches for the foundations of mathematical thought through an impressive collection of twenty-one articles divided into five sections: (1) Mental Magnitudes and Their Transformations, (2) Neural Codes for Space, Time and Number, (3) Shared Mechanisms for Space, Time and Number?, (4) Origins of Proto-Mathematical Intuitions, (5) Representational Change and Education. While this book represents an important contribution by leading scholars, there remain a number of unsolved problems pertaining to the interpretation of empirical data, the cognitive-epistemic foundations of mathematics, and linguistic representation.
2014. "Mapping Kinds in GIS and Cartography," in Natural Kinds After the Practice-Turn (Catherine Kendig ed.), Pickering & Chatto, London. [Download PDF from philpapers.com; click here for a description of the anthology.]
- This book chapter explores the use of natural kinds in the data modeling and map generalization practices of GIS and cartography. Collecting and collating geographical data, building geographical databases, and engaging in spatial analysis, visualization, and map-making all require organizing, typologizing, and classifying geographic space, objects, relations, and processes. These practices of making and using kinds are contextual, fallible, plural, and purposive. The mapping of kinds is just one aspect of a possible philosophy of GIS and cartography (PGISC), which may provide a novel method for addressing concerns of realism, representation, explanation, reduction, and theory structure in philosophy of science more generally.
- This article examines both the danger and usefulness of abstraction in science and philosophy through an examination of the writings of William James and John Dewey. According to these two pragmatists, whenever one forgets (1) the particular function, (2) historical conditions of emergence, and/or (3) appropriate analytical level of an abstraction, the products and processes of abstraction become inappropriately universalized, narrowed, and/or ontologized. This article elucidates the abstraction-reification account diagnosed by James and Dewey and locates it in contemporary scientific work, dubbing the problem at hand “pernicious reification.”
2014. The Genetic Reification of "Race"? A Story of Two Mathematical Methods. Critical Philosophy of Race 2 (2): 204-223. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
- Two families of mathematical methods lie at the heart of investigating the hierarchical structure of genetic variation in Homo sapiens: diversity partitioning, which assesses genetic variation within and among predetermined groups, and clustering analysis, which simultaneously produces clusters and assigns individuals to these “unsupervised” cluster classifications. While mathematically consistent, these two methodologies seem to ground diametrically opposed claims about the reality of human races. Moreover, modeling results are subject to being perniciously reified – conflated and confused with the world – because they are sensitive to preexisting theoretical commitments to certain linguistic, anthropological, and geographic human groups. This fact belies standard realist and antirealist interpretations of “race,” and supports a pluralist conventionalist interpretation.
- This co-authored article distinguishes three concepts of “race”: bio-genomic cluster/race, biological race, and social race. It maps out realism, antirealism, and conventionalism about each of these concepts, across three important historical episodes. Upon inspection, each episode also reveals a variety of commitments to the metaphysics of race. The article concludes by interrogating the relevance of these scientific discussions for political positions and a post-racial future.
2013. With Fabrizzio Guerrero McManus. Review of Michael Ruse The Philosophy of Human Evolution. (Cambridge University Press), Evolution. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
- This is a co-written review of a book that covers several topics relevant to human evolution: evolutionary theory, the concept of progress, knowledge, morality, sex and race, and evolutionary medicine. Although Ruse’s book is clearly and effectively written and foregrounds a diversity of important questions regarding human evolution, it would benefit our understanding of both human evolution and the role of the historian and philosopher of science to consider further theoretical frames from evolutionary biology that go beyond his Dawkins-style view of evolution. Such frames include multilevel and hierarchical selection theories, epigenetics, feminist science, and developmental systems and niche construction theory. One role of the philosopher and historian of science is to identify, negotiate, and potentially integrate multiple theoretical perspectives.
2013. Review of Stephen Stich Collected Papers. Vol 2. Knowledge, Rationality, and Morality (Oxford University Press), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. [Read review on NDPR's website.]
- This is a review of a volume of papers by Stephen Stitch, a philosopher who has consistently argued that our conceptions of knowledge and morality must be responsive to cognitive science and cultural context. Stitch puts real concrete individuals back into analytic philosophy, as a welcome corrective to overly idealized notions of reasoning and reasoning agents. After exploring Stitch’s themes of (1) cognitive diversity, (2) biases and heuristics, (3) psychological foundations of morality, and (4) philosophical methodology, the review concludes by recommending this volume to a broad audience of analytic philosophers, psychologists, and cognitive scientists.
- This is a co-written article arguing that genomic data and models will not settle questions about the reality of race. First, different sub-disciplines of biology interested in population structure employ distinct concepts, aims, and measures and models, thereby producing cross-cutting categorizations of population subdivisions rather than a single, universal biogenomic concept of ‘race.’ Second, within each sub-discipline, genomic results are consistent with, and map multiply to, racial realism and anti-realism. We thus defend a constructivist conventionalism about biogenomic racial ontology. Political agendas, social programmes, and moral questions premised on the existence of naturalistic race should accept that no scientifically grounded racial ontology is forthcoming, and adjust presumptions, practices and projects accordingly.
- This is a co-written article examining two controversies regarding the appropriate characterization of hierarchical and adaptive evolution in natural populations. First, there is the controversy over the relative roles of random genetic drift, natural selection, population structure, and interdemic selection in adaptive evolution begun by Sewall Wright and Ronald Aylmer Fisher. Second, there is the Units of Selection debate, spanning both the biological and the philosophical literature and including the impassioned group-selection debate. We postulate that the reason for the lack of interaction between these debates can be found in the differing focus of each controversy, which is itself determined by distinct general styles of scientific research guiding each discourse: a focus on adaptive process in the Wright-Fisher debate, instructed by the mathematical modeling style; and a focus on adaptive product in the Units of Selection controversy, guided by the function style.
- Biological theory does not force the concept of ‘‘race’’ upon us. Indeed, there is no single agreed-upon criterion for defining and distinguishing populations given a particular set of genetic variation data. By analyzing three formal senses of ‘‘genetic variation’’ - diversity, differentiation, and heterozygosity - we argue that the use of biological theory for making claims about race inevitably amounts to pernicious reification.
2012. Interweaving Categories: Styles, Paradigms, and Models. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A 43: 628-639. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
- The major analytical categories of scientific cultures - styles (à la Hacking and Crombie), paradigms (à la Kuhn), and models (à la van Fraassen and Cartwright) - have typically been used both exclusively and universally. For instance, when styles of scientific research are employed in attempts to understand and narrate science, styles alone are usually employed. Taking the science of systematics as a case study, I ask what we might learn about both theory and practice if we applied styles, paradigms, and models simultaneously.
2011. Part-Whole Science. Synthese 178: 397-427. [Download PDF.]
- Part-whole science is premised on identifying, investigating, and using parts and wholes. In the biological sciences this includes mechanistic, structuralist, and historical explanations, each of which implies different norms, explananda, and aims. My diagnosis of part-whole explanation can be applied to various evolved, complex, and integrated systems (e.g. in cognitive science) and cross-cuts standard philosophical analyses of explanation such as causal and unificationist views.
2011. Darwin's Pluralism, Then and Now. Review of David N. Reznick's The Origin Then and Now. An Interpretative Guide to the Origin of Species (Princeton UP, 2009). Metascience. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.] 2011. "Una revisión crítica de los estilos de investigación científica: Teoría, práctica y estilos," in Historia, prácticas y estilos en la filosofía de la ciencia. Hacia una epistemología plural. (S. Martínez, X. Huang, and G. Guillaumin, eds.), Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City, pp. 259-287 (in Spanish). [Download PDF from philpapers.com.] 2011. Consciousness Modeled: Reification and Promising Pluralism. Pensamiento (Madrid, Spain) 67 (254): 617-630. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
2011. "¿La cosificación genética de la 'raza'? Un análisis crítico", in Genes (&) mestizos. Genómica y raza en la biomedicina mexicana. (C. López-Beltrán, ed.), UNAM, Mexico City, pp. 237-258 (in Spanish).
2011 (Forthcoming). "Evo-Devo as a Trading Zone" in Conceptual Change in Biology: Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Evolution and Development. (A. Love, ed.), Springer Verlag, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.] 2009. Schaffner's Model of Theory Reduction: Critique and Reconstruction. Philosophy of Science 76: 119-142. [Download PDF.] 2009. Prediction in Selectionist Evolutionary Theory. Philosophy of Science 76: 889-901. [Download PDF] 2009. Character Analysis in Cladistics: Abstraction, Reification, and the Search for Objectivity. Acta Biotheoretica 57: 129-162. [Download PDF] 2009. Introduction: From a Philosophical Point of View. Acta Biotheoretica 57: 5-10. [Download PDF] 2009. Missing in Action: On Science and Constructivism in the Realism Debates. A Dialogue. Review of Kyle Stanford's Exceeding Our Grasp. Science, History, and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives (Oxford UP, 2006), Metascience. (pp. 16-25). [Download PDF] 2008. Systemic Darwinism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). 105 (33): 11833-11838. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.] 2007. "Estilos de investigación científica, modelos e insectos sociales", in Variedad Infinita. Ciencia y representación. Un enfoque histórico y filosófico (E. Suárez, ed.). UNAM and Editorial Limusa, pp. 55-89. [Download PDF] 2006. Parts and Theories in Compositional Biology. Biology and Philosophy 21: 471-499. [Download PDF.] 2006. On the Dangers of Making Scientific Models Ontologically Independent: Taking Richard Levins' Warnings Seriously. Biology and Philosophy 21: 703-724. [Download PDF.] 2006. Fisherian and Wrightian Perspectives in Evolutionary Genetics and Model-Mediated Imposition of Theoretical Assumptions. Journal of Theoretical Biology 240: 218-232. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.] 2005. An Obstacle to Unification in Biological Social Science: Formal and Compositional Styles of Science. Graduate Journal of Social Sciences 2: 40-100. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.] 2005. "Evolutionary Developmental Biology Meets Levels of Selection: Modular Integration or Competition, or Both?" in Modularity: Understanding the Development and Evolution of Complex Natural Systems (W. Callebaut and D. Rasskin-Gutman, eds.), MIT Press, pp. 61-97. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
[Writing HPS Dissertation & Biology Masters, 2001-2004]
2001. Varieties of Modules: Kinds, Levels, Origins, and Behaviors. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 291: 116-129. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.] 2001. August Weismann on Germ-Plasm Variation. Journal of the History of Biology 34: 517-555. [Download PDF from philpapers.com] 2001. Review of Deborah Gordon's Ants at Work: The Organization of a Social Insect Colony (Free Press, 1999). Philosophy of Science 68: 268-270. [Download PDF] 2000. Darwin on Variation and Heredity. Journal of the History of Biology 33: 425-455. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.]
Co-Authored Publications (Professional):
Vergara-Silva F, Winther RG. 2009. Editorial: Systematics, Darwinism, and the Philosophy of Science. Acta Biotheoretica 57: 1-3. [Download PDF] Wade MJ, Winther RG, Agrawal AF, Goodnight CJ. 2001. Alternative Definitions of Epistasis: Dependence and Interaction. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16: 498-504. [Download PDF from philpapers.com.] van Syoc RJ, Winther R. 1999. Sponge-Inhabiting Barnacles of the Americas: A New Species of Acasta (Cirripedia, Archaeobalanidae), First Record from the Eastern Pacific, Including Discussion of the Evolution of Cirral Morphology. Crustaceana 72: 467-486. [Download PDF]
2004. A Molecular and Evolutionary Study of the Obligate Endosymbiont Wolbachia in Tribolium confusum. [Masters Thesis in the biological sciences; download PDF] 2003. Formal Biology and Compositional Biology as Two Kinds of Biological Theorizing. [PhD Thesis in philosophy of science; PDF from philpapers.com.]
I am also working on various general public "mini-essays", which have received positive feedback and praise. Feel free to email me about these.