Philosophy of Science


by E. O. Wilson
Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1984. 157 pages.

Biophilia, Wilson writes, “I will be so bold as to define as the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes. ... I will make the case that to explore and affiliate with life is a deep and complicated process in mental development. To an extent still undervalued in philosophy and religion, our existence depends on this propensity, our spirit is woven from it, hope rises on its currents.” “Wilson’s own empathy with things illuminates these essays with fresh perceptions of everyday matters,” writes the reviewer for the Los Angeles Times.

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

by E. O. Wilson
New York: Vintage, 1999. 384 pages.

A provocative and controversial book, Consilience explains that “With the aid of the scientific method, we have gained an encompassing view of the physical world far beyond the dreams of earlier generation,” and announces, “The great adventure is now beginning to turn inward, toward ourselves,” as Wilson argues for all forms of inquiry — including ethics, art, and religion — to be based on and subsumed within science. Freeman Dyson writes, “The book is a major contribution to philosophy, whether you agree with it or not. ...

But Is It Science? updated edition

edited by Robert T. Pennock and Michael Ruse
Amherst (NY): Prometheus Books, 2009. 577 pages.

Part of the controversy over the Origin of Species was whether Darwin's theory was properly scientific, and part of the ongoing controversies over creation science and "intelligent design" is whether these views are properly scientific. But Is It Science? thus tackles the philosophical question in the creation/evolution controversy. The editors, NCSE Supporter Michael Ruse and NCSE member Robert T. Pennock, testified on the nature of science in McLean v. Arkansas and Kitzmiller v. Dover, respectively.

Evidence and Evolution

by Elliott Sober
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 412 pages.

The publisher writes, "How should the concept of evidence be understood? And how does the concept of evidence apply to the controversy about creationism and also to work in evolutionary biology about natural selection and common ancestry? In this rich and wide-ranging book, Elliott Sober investigates general questions about probability and evidence and shows how the answers he develops to those questions apply to the specifics of evolutionary biology. ...

The Sacred Depths of Nature

by Ursula Goodenough
New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 220 pages.

In prose that has been lauded as elegant and eloquent, Goodenough offers incisive explanations of the scientific facts of what she calls "the Epic of Evolution" and personal philosophical reflections suggesting how one may draw a sense of meaning from these facts. The Epic of Evolution explores the origins of the earth and life on the planet, the way life and organisms work, the mechanisms of evolutionary change, the evolution of biodiversity, awareness, emotions, the role of sexual reproduction in evolution, multicellularity, death, and speciation.

Mystery of Mysteries

by Michael Ruse
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. 320 pages.

Ruse tells us in his introduction, "This is a book about the nature of science using evolutionary theory as a case study ... intended for a general audience." This highly readable book isn't bogged down by footnotes, but it does have a glossary to make the going easier, an extensive bibliography, and lively profiles of the thinkers whose work it discusses.

Evolutionary Ethics

by Matthew Nitecki and Doris Nitecki
Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993. 368 pages.

The historical background to evolutionary ethics, and articles for and against sociobiological interpretations of evolutionary ethics. Articles by Richard D. Alexander, Laurie R. Godfrey, Michael Ruse, Robert J. Richards, Elliot Sober, George Williams, and others.

Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology

by Michael Ruse
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. 640 pages.

Does evolution really result in "progress"? What do you mean by "progress"? Philosopher and historian of science Michael Ruse traces how the "Enlightenment's philosophy of progress was transferred wholesale into the biology of the time, so that emerging ideas about biological evolution became permeated from the start by a belief in progress." The connection between belief in progress and biological theorizing is, for Ruse, fundamental for understanding the history of evolutionary theory.

Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature

by Larry Arnhart
Albany: SUNY Press, 1998. 352 pages.

In Darwinian Natural Right, Larry Arnhart maintains that evolutionary biology favors the Aristotelian view of ethics as rooted in human nature, defining Darwinian natural right in terms of the fulfillment of natural desires based in human biology that are universal to all human societies. "This is one of the best works of its kind that I have read in many years", writes Michael Ruse in Biology and Philosophy: "It is extremely well-written and reads beautifully." The author is Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University.

Biology and the Foundations of Ethics

edited by Jane Maienschein and Michael Ruse
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 344 pages.

Collected in Biology and the Foundations of Ethics are twelve accomplished essays by distinguished historians and philosophers of science that consider the historical debates over the connection between biology — in particular evolutionary biology — and foundational questions in ethics, from Aristotle through Hume, Darwin, and Nietzsche to E. O. Wilson.