Subject: Phil 456, Philosophy of Biology II spring 2015
Phil 456, Philosophy of Biology II, Spring 2014
Thursday 3:30-5:10pm in Skinner 1115; ELMS: 1 hour on line activities/week
Instructor: Lindley Darden, Professor of Philosophy & Distinguished
Scholar/Teacher [log in to unmask]
Official Prerequisites: Official: Phil 256 or Phil 250 or life science major
or permission of instructor.
Unofficial advice: Premed students and life science minors are encouraged to
take the course. Philosophy majors and others with no prior knowledge of
biology are not encouraged to take the course; Phil 256 is more appropriate.
Topics in the philosophy of the biological sciences
Mechanisms: What is a biological mechanism? How are models of mechanisms
constructed, evaluated, and revised? How are models of mechanisms used for
explanation, prediction, and control (e.g., of disease)?
Conceptual problems in evolutionary theory: What is evolution? What is
selection? What was Charles Darwin's original formulation of the theory of
natural selection? Is natural selection a mechanism of evolutionary change?
What is an adaptation? What is fitness?
Reduction: Can biology be reduced to chemistry/physics? Are there laws in
Conceptual issues in genetics and molecular biology: What is a gene? What is
the central dogma of molecular biology? What is the concept of information
in molecular biology? What is the relation between Mendelian genetics and
Philosophy of medicine: What role should knowledge of biological mechanisms
vs. evidence from randomized clinical trials play in evidenced-based
The course is a combination of lecture and discussion and online activities.
Critical thinking and writing and discussion are emphasized.
Contact Person: Lindley Darden
Contact Email: [log in to unmask]