Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences: Philosophy of Science - Biology

Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science Sober How are evolutionary hypotheses tested and compared against each other and the world? Sober's book explains in painstaking detail. He is a bit too fair with "intelligent design", however - I think he should have the courage to say that the data would show the "intelligent designer" if there were one to be nothing like what the conservative theists promoting this pseudoscience claim it is like. (That said, his explanation that you need to hypothesize something about the designers to infer design seems right, to some extent.) Most welcome is a discussion of different forms of statistical inference. I am now convinced that the debates over probability have nothing to say here. After all, even the frequentist approaches describe do the strange thing of attributing probabilities to propositions. (Propensity interpretations are also nowhere to be found, which is another clue.) A warning: for those who would expect discussion of the evidence itself may be disappointed; this book's goal is to discuss how that evidence gets evaluated.
Evolution and the Big Questions: Sex, Race, Religion and Other Maters Stamos

In a way, this book is along the same lines as Ruse's classic Taking Darwin Seriously (below). It analyzes 9 areas of important inquiry (knowledge, consciousness, language, sex, feminism, race, ethics, religion, the meaning (sic) of life) and shows how the fact of human (and that of other life) evolution profoundly affects our understanding of these matters. While some of what Stamos claims is contentious (for example, the merits of evolutionary psychology) he is right to set the place of the debate as one of being how much the relevance of evolutionary biology is in each case.

I dislike, however, his use of the "hypothesis becomes a theory becomes a fact" linebecause of its subjectivist misinterpretations and because it makes for discussing consilience harder than it need be. (And Stamos, to his credit, is big on consilience and inference to the best explanation. Ironically also, he is aware of the problems of stipulative definitions, and this introduces non-standard use of at least two terms.) However, the major weakness of the book is that it feels so much like an introduction - which is, admittedly, a justifiable one, since only compartively recently in human history does the debate and discussion needed even become possible.

I thus regard this book as recommended for all who care about the role of reason and science in human affairs - which should be all of us, but one thing at a time.

Genetics and Reductionism Sarkar Sarkar's book is a powerful discussion of different forms of "genetic reductionism" and their support. I think a further study would have to forgo Sarkar's eschewing of metaphysics. (For example, issues of causation, "levels of reality" and mereology all play a role in the subject under consideration, as far as I can tell.) That said, this book is quite informative to begin with and certainly merits careful study.
Molecular Models of Life: Philosophical Papers on Molecular Biology Sarkar This collection of papers, spanning in date from 1988 to 2004 consist of sustained investigation of the foundations of genetics, molecular biology, evolution, etc. seen primarily through the lens of molecular biology. My only complaint about the collection is that, as is usual for collections of a single author, many of the papers redundantly introduce the same topics. In fact, two of the papers are almost identical, at least to start out. This limitation, however, is of little lasting importance as the collection is otherwise clear and understandable, though not always persuasive. (But that would be unlikely anyway.)
Philosophy of Biology Ruse Ruse's edited collection of various papers on the philosophy of biology. Covers a wide range of topics from molecular biology and genetic engineering to the species concept debate to the human sociobiology debate and more.
Refiguring Life Keller I like the first and the third chapters of this little book. The second is loopy - it tries to psychoanalyze Schrödinger.
Science and Selection: Essays on Biological Evolution and the Philosophy of Science Hull This is a collection of noted philosopher of biology David Hull's papers on the general theme of "lessons for the general philosophy of science (and philosophy as a whole)" from the philosophy of biology. Some examples include: Hull's general theory of evolution (and extra material on its various components), a plea for realistic examples, the importance of testing hypotheses about science, and his evolutionary account of conceptual change in science. I note that his worries about Putnam-style and Goodman-style thought experiments are much the same as mine. No doubt Hull is aware that (for example) Twin Earth is incoherent as described - no living creature on Earth would survive if the liquid that fell from the sky, pooled in oceans, etc. were not the same as produced by our biochemical processes. Hull doesn't raise the further question of whether this renders Putnam vulnerable to ex falso quodlibet sequitur, but "our" point I think is a vital one. Hull does also points out that biology is full of fun "anomalies" that often render it unnecessary to make something up. I would simply generalize that insight to all the sciences and technologies.
Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology Sterelny and Griffiths A textbook of philosophy of biology. The titles of the topics addressed are philosophy of biology and social issues; the received view of evolution; the gene's eye view of evolution; the organism strikes back; the developmental system's alternative; Mendel and molecules; reduction: for and against; organisms, groups, and superorganisms; species; adaption, perfection, function; adaption, ecology and the environment; life on earth: the big picture; from sociobiology to evolutionary psychology; a case study: evolutionary theories of emotions; what is life?
Taking Darwin Seriously Ruse Ruse's most famous book leaves a mixed taste in my mouth. The discussions of why evolution shakes up philosophy and our world views generally is good; the antirealist conclusions he draws are unwarranted.

Finished with this section? Go back to the list of book subjects here.