Philosophy of Science

The Secret Chain: Evolution and Ethics

by Michael Bradie
Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994. 216 pages.

Part historical treatise, part philosophical analysis, The Secret Chain carefully presents and critically evaluates virtually every important discussion of the connection between evolutionary biology and ethics from the 18th century to the present day.

Good-Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals

by Frans de Waal
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. 368 pages.

In Good-Natured, the primatologist Frans de Waal takes morality as his topic, arguing that we are not the only animals that are capable of distinctively moral behavior. But Good-Natured is no dry philosophy text; it teems with striking and touching anecdotes (drawn from de Waal's own observation) of sympathy, reciprocity, and peacemaking among the primates, to say nothing of his excursions into fields as diverse as cognitive ethology, neurobiology, visual anthropology, evolutionary biology, and comparative psychology.

Evolutionary Origins of Morality: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives

edited by Leonard D Katz
Thorverton, Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2000. 352 pages.

Four lengthy essays — by primatologists Jessica Flack and Frans de Waal, cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm, philosopher Elliot Sober and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, and philosopher Brian Skyrms — plus no fewer than 43 short commentaries, all revolving around the evolutionary origins of morality. Noam Chomsky comments, "Thoughtful and informative, (the essays) provide a good basis for appreciating what has been achieved, and what the prospects might be, in a domain of inquiry that is of fundamental importance for understanding our essential nature."

The Temptation of Evolutionary Ethics

by Paul Lawrence Farber
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. 224 pages.

In The Temptation of Evolutionary Ethics, Farber details the history of three flurries of excitement about evolutionary ethics. The first appeared in the aftermath of the publication of The Origin of Species; the second emerged from the cultural chaos following World War I, and the third arrived with the development of sociobiology in the late 20th century. Pessimistic about the prospects for evolutionary ethics, Farber contends that its practitioners are likely to repeat the same philosophical mistakes time after time.

Issues in Evolutionary Ethics

edited by Paul Thompson
Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1995. 444 pages.

From the publisher: "This book explores historical and current discussion of the relevance of evolutionary theory to ethics. The historical section conveys the intellectual struggle that took place within the framework of Darwinism from its inception up to the work of GC Williams, WD Hamilton, RD Alexander, RL Trivers, EO Wilson, R Dawkins, and others. The contemporary section discusses ethics within the framwork of evoltuionary theory as enriched by the works of biologists such as those mentioned above."

Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism

by James Rachels
New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 256 pages.

In Created from Animals, philosopher James Rachels poses the provocative question "What sort of moral view is consistent with a Darwinian understanding of nature and man's place in it?" His thoughtful answer takes the reader through chapters on evolution, ethics and morals, religion, and human-nonhuman relations. "Evolutionary biologists will likely be fascinated with his explanation", wrote Eugenie C Scott in her review for the Journal of Human Evolution.

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation

by Matt Ridley
London: Penguin Books, 1998. 304 pages.

"Our minds have been built by selfish genes, but they have been built to be social, trustworthy and cooperative." A paradox? Not according to Matt Ridley, the author of The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. His richly multidisciplinary discussion of the science behind human morality scintillates with anecdote and wit. Richard Dawkins exclaims, "If my Selfish Gene were to have a volume two devoted to humans, The Origins of Virtue is pretty much what I think it ought to look like."

Genes, Genesis and God: Values and their Origins in Natural and Human History

by Holmes Rolston III
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 420 pages.

According to Michael Ruse, writing in RNCSE (1999 Sep/Oct; 19[5]: 38-42), Genes, Genesis and God is "a full and fair natural theological attempt to understand modern biology and its relevance for social, ethical, and religious thought. Although I shall have things critical to say about this book... the author came through as a learned and humane man who has taken seriously his project, and who exhibits intelligence and sensitivity in everything that he writes." Based on the author's 1997 Gifford Lectures.

Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior

by David Sloan Wilson and Elliott Sober
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. 416 pages.

In Unto Others, philosopher Elliott Sober and biologist David Sloan Wilson team up to try to reconcile altruism with those scientific discoveries that seem to depict nature as "red in tooth and claw". In the first half, they deal with the prima facie evolutionary objection to altruism by arguing for the feasibility of group selection.

In Mendel's Mirror: Philosophical Reflections on Biology

by Philip Kitcher
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. 410 pages.

From the publisher: "Philip Kitcher is one of the leading figures in the philosophy of science today. Here he collects, for the first time, many of his published articles on the philosophy of biology, spanning from the mid-1980s to the present. ... Kitcher's articles cover a broad range of topics with similar philosophical and social significance: sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, species, race, altruism, genetic determinism, and the rebirth of creationism in Intelligent Design.