A Conversation with Kim Sterelny about the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis – This View Of Life

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A Conversation with Kim Sterelny about the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis – This View Of Life

A Conversation with Kim Sterelny about the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis

By Kim SterelnyDavid Sloan WilsonOne Comment

TVOL’s coverage of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) continues with an interview with Kim Sterelny, one of the world’s most prominent philosophers of biology. Sterelny has served as editor of the journal Biology & Philosophy since 2000 and his books include Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of BiologyThought in a Hostile World: The Evolution of Human CognitionDawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest, and The Evolved Apprentice: How Evolution Made Humans Unique. Sterelny was central in the development of the EES project funded by the John Templeton foundation, which recently launched its own website. He was a participant in the Nature exchange “Does evolutionary biology need a rethink?”1 (answering “yes”) as well as a coauthor of the major 2015 review article on the EES published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.2

David Sloan Wilson: Welcome Kim. I recall many fine conversations with you. Let me begin by asking you to explain in general terms how philosophers contribute to the study of evolutionary biology. What do you bring to the table?

Kim Sterelny: A couple of things. For one, a lot of foundational questions in evolutionary biology are curious hybrids of conceptual, formal and empirical issues. Think for example of the history of gene selectionism or multi-level selection. It took a lot of hammering and tinkering to get clear which claims about selection were genuinely empirically and causally distinct; which were empirically equivalent but perhaps heuristically distinct, and which really were just verbal disputes. It is also true that philosophers bring both the time and the skills to do integrative and synthetic work across different research traditions. Biologists are with few exceptions almost forced to specialise quite narrowly; they have to produce data; philosophers only have to think about it.

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A Conversation with Kim Sterelny about the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis – This View Of Life