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Elliott Sober
University of Wisconsin, Madison
  1.  37
    Contrastive Causal Explanation and the Explanatoriness of Deterministic and Probabilistic Hypotheses Theories.Elliott Sober - forthcoming - European Journal for Philosophy of Science.
    Carl Hempel (1965) argued that probabilistic hypotheses are limited in what they can explain. He contended that a hypothesis cannot explain why E is true if the hypothesis says that E has a probability less than 0.5. Wesley Salmon (1971, 1984, 1990, 1998) and Richard Jeffrey (1969) argued to the contrary, contending that P can explain why E is true even when P says that E’s probability is very low. This debate concerned noncontrastive explananda. Here, a view of contrastive causal (...)
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  2. Explanatoriness and Evidence: A Reply to McCain and Poston.William Roche & Elliott Sober - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):193-199.
    We argue elsewhere that explanatoriness is evidentially irrelevant . Let H be some hypothesis, O some observation, and E the proposition that H would explain O if H and O were true. Then O screens-off E from H: Pr = Pr. This thesis, hereafter “SOT” , is defended by appeal to a representative case. The case concerns smoking and lung cancer. McCain and Poston grant that SOT holds in cases, like our case concerning smoking and lung cancer, that involve frequency (...)
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  3. What is Wrong with Intelligent Design?Elliott Sober - 2007 - Quarterly Review of Biology 82 (1):3-8.
    This article reviews two standard criticisms of creationism/intelligent design (ID): it is unfalsifiable, and it is refuted by the many imperfect adaptations found in nature. Problems with both criticisms are discussed. A conception of testability is described that avoids the defects in Karl Popper’s falsifiability criterion. Although ID comes in multiple forms, which call for different criticisms, it emerges that ID fails to constitute a serious alternative to evolutionary theory.
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  4.  44
    Parsimony and Models of Animal Minds.Elliott Sober - 2009 - In Robert W. Lurz (ed.), The Philosophy of Animal Minds. Cambridge University Press. pp. 237.
    The chapter discusses the principle of conservatism and traces how the general principle is related to the specific one. This tracing suggests that the principle of conservatism needs to be refined. Connecting the principle in cognitive science to more general questions about scientific inference also allows us to revisit the question of realism versus instrumentalism. The framework deployed in model selection theory is very general; it is not specific to the subject matter of science. The chapter outlines some non-Bayesian ideas (...)
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  5. Causal Factors, Causal Inference, Causal Explanation.Elliott Sober & David Papineau - 1986 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes( 60:97-136.
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  6. Puzzles for ZFEL, McShea and Brandon’s Zero Force Evolutionary Law.Martin Barrett, Hayley Clatterbuck, Michael Goldsby, Casey Helgeson, Brian McLoone, Trevor Pearce, Elliott Sober, Reuben Stern & Naftali Weinberger - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (5):723-735.
    In their 2010 book, Biology’s First Law, D. McShea and R. Brandon present a principle that they call ‘‘ZFEL,’’ the zero force evolutionary law. ZFEL says (roughly) that when there are no evolutionary forces acting on a population, the population’s complexity (i.e., how diverse its member organisms are) will increase. Here we develop criticisms of ZFEL and describe a different law of evolution; it says that diversity and complexity do not change when there are no evolutionary causes.
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  7. Is Explanatoriness a Guide to Confirmation? A Reply to Climenhaga.William Roche & Elliott Sober - 2017 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 48 (4):581-590.
    We argued that explanatoriness is evidentially irrelevant in the following sense: Let H be a hypothesis, O an observation, and E the proposition that H would explain O if H and O were true. Then our claim is that Pr = Pr. We defended this screening-off thesis by discussing an example concerning smoking and cancer. Climenhaga argues that SOT is mistaken because it delivers the wrong verdict about a slightly different smoking-and-cancer case. He also considers a variant of SOT, called (...)
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  8.  77
    Hypotheses That Attribute False Beliefs: A Two‐Part Epistemology.William Roche & Elliott Sober - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
    Is there some general reason to expect organisms that have beliefs to have false beliefs? And after you observe that an organism occasionally occupies a given neural state that you think encodes a perceptual belief, how do you evaluate hypotheses about the semantic content that that state has, where some of those hypotheses attribute beliefs that are sometimes false while others attribute beliefs that are always true? To address the first of these questions, we discuss evolution by natural selection and (...)
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  9. Fodor’s Bubbe Meise Against Darwinism.Elliott Sober - 2008 - Mind and Language 23 (1):42-49.
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  10.  29
    Fitness and the Twins.Elliott Sober - 2020 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 12.
    Michael Scriven’s (1959) example of identical twins (who are said to be equal in fitness but unequal in their reproductive success) has been used by many philosophers of biology to discuss how fitness should be defined, how selection should be distinguished from drift, and how the environment in which a selection process occurs should be conceptualized. Here it is argued that evolutionary theory has no commitment, one way or the other, as to whether the twins are equally fit. This is (...)
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  11.  84
    Discrimination-Conduciveness and Observation Selection Effects.William Roche & Elliott Sober - 2019 - Philosophers' Imprint 19:1-26.
    We conceptualize observation selection effects (OSEs) by considering how a shift from one process of observation to another affects discrimination-conduciveness, by which we mean the degree to which possible observations discriminate between hypotheses, given the observation process at work. OSEs in this sense come in degrees and are causal, where the cause is the shift in process, and the effect is a change in degree of discrimination-conduciveness. We contrast our understanding of OSEs with others that have appeared in the literature. (...)
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  12.  82
    Inference to the Best Explanation and the Screening-Off Challenge.William Roche & Elliott Sober - 2019 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 38:121-142.
    We argue in Roche and Sober (2013) that explanatoriness is evidentially irrelevant in that Pr(H | O&EXPL) = Pr(H | O), where H is a hypothesis, O is an observation, and EXPL is the proposition that if H and O were true, then H would explain O. This is a “screening-off” thesis. Here we clarify that thesis, reply to criticisms advanced by Lange (2017), consider alternative formulations of Inference to the Best Explanation, discuss a strengthened screening-off thesis, and consider how (...)
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  13.  84
    The Contest Between Parsimony and Likelihood.Elliott Sober - 2004 - Systematic Biology 53 (4):644-653.
    Maximum Parsimony (MP) and Maximum Likelihood (ML) are two methods for evaluating which phlogenetic tree is best supported by data on the characteristics of leaf objects (which may be species, populations, or individual organisms). MP has been criticized for assuming that evolution proceeds parsimoniously -- that if a lineage begins in state i and ends in state j, the way it got from i to j is by the smallest number of changes. MP has been criticized for needing to assume (...)
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  14. Darwin y la selección de grupo.Elliott Sober - 2009 - Ludus Vitalis 17 (32):101-143.
    Do traits evolve because they are good for the group, or do they evolve because they are good for the individual organisms that have them? The question is whether groups, rather than individual organisms, are ever “units of selection.” My exposition begins with the 1960’s, when the idea that traits evolve because they are good for the group was criticized, not just for being factually mistaken, but for embodying a kind of confused thinking that is fundamentally at odds with the (...)
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  15. Evolución, pensamiento poblacionaly esencialismo.Elliott Sober - 2004 - Ludus Vitalis 12 (21):115-148.
    Los filósofos han tendido a discutir el esencialismo como si fuera una doctrina global, una filosofía que, por alguna razón uniforme, debiera ser adoptada por todas las ciencias o por ninguna. Popper (1972) ha adoptado una postura global negativa, porque ve al esencialismo como un obstáculo fundamental para la racionalidad científica. También Quine (1953b, 1960), por una combinación de motivos semánticos y epistemológicos, quiere desterrar el esencialismo de la totalidad del discurso científico. Sin embargo, en fechas más recientes, Putnam (1975) (...)
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  16.  44
    Instrumentalism Revisited.Elliott Sober - 1999 - Critica 31 (91):3-39.
    The logical empiricists said some good things about epistemology and scientific method. However, they associated those epistemological ideas with some rather less good ideas about philosophy of language. There is something epistemologically suspect about statements that cannot be tested. But to say that those statements are meaningless is to go too far. And there is something impossible about trying to figure out which of two empirically equivalent theories is true. But to say that those theories are synonymous is also to (...)
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