Critical Notice

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Introduction: As Elliott Sober acknowledges in the preface, the title of his latest book Evidence and Evolution is potentially confusing. For his discussion does not present various known empirical facts that support the theory of common ancestry, such as fossil data and genetic and anatomical features of extant species. Rather, it is an epistemological study of scientific inference and the confirmation of hypotheses in the context of evolutionary biology. Sober targets a dual audience. Philosophers will obtain from his detailed and convincing account general lessons on the nature of confirmation and an introduction to or overview of basic models in evolutionary theory. Biologists will benefit as well, since Sober steps back from the variety of existing quantitative models and identifies common strands in hypothesis testing and addresses how to justify certain fundamental assumptions that biologists often take for granted. Below I will highlight two philosophical themes that run through Sober’s discussion. Sober has made these point more than once in previous work (Sober 1988, 1999, 2007), but they are of central importance and cannot be repeated often enough. These are the facts that (1) confirmation in science is contrastive, where a theory can be meaningfully tested only against one or more rival hypotheses, and (2) scientific inference methods are not a priori and valid for every case, but presuppose specific empirical assumptions and thus are legitimate only in a certain range of empirical cases.

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    Article (Published)
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  • License
    © 2011 I. Brigandt et al. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Brigandt, I. (2011). Critical Notice. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 41(1), 159-186.
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