Such expressions as that famous one of Linnæus, and which we often meet with in a more or less concealed form, that the characters do not make the genus, but that the genus gives the characters, seem to imply that something more is included in our classification, than mere resemblance. I believe that something more is included; and that propinquity of descent,—the only known cause of the similarity of organic beings,—is the bond, hidden as it is by various degrees of modification, which is partially revealed to us by our classifications (Darwin, 1859, p. 413f).

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

More Whiggish Historians

The recently published book, Real Essentialism by David S. Oderberg, is another example of Whiggish History and Philosophy of Science.

I refer to Oderberg's use of Elliott Sober's and Mark Ridley's work to make statements about cladistics:
    "See also Sober 1993:Ch. 6 for a defense of cladism and criticism of competing methods" (Oderberg 2008: 214).
    Ridley is a little less sanguine about the implications of cladistics ..." (Oderberg, 2008:222).
    "Ridley notes briefly that [t]here is no orthodoxy among evolutionary biologists [I take him to mean mainly cladists] ..." (Oderberg, 2008:222).
The problem of using the work of non- or even anti-cladists to defend cladistics is remarkable - especially when making outlandish claims:
    "So it looks like the cladist has to believe in the existence of inorganic evolutionary descent at every stage in the past history of the universe" (Oderberg, 2008:220).
    "Common sense - which is not, as I will argue, the same as cladistic sense ..." (Oderberg, 2008:215).
Yet the only cladists Oderberg cites are:
    Another bizarre consequence of cladism is the following (LaPorte 2004: 50-62; Okasha 2002: 205-7)" (Oderberg, 2008:220).
    "Yet this absurd result of cladistics is accepted by LaPorte with equanimity, and taken by Okasha (2002: 205-7) at face value since he upbraids essentialists ..." (Oderberg, 2008:221).
LaPorte and Okasha may 'upbraid essentialists', but they are not representative of cladistic theory nor do they represent the views of all cladists - in the same way that not all historians and philosophers of science are Whiggish in their views.

LaPorte, J. (2004). Natural Kinds and Conceptual Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Oderberg, D.S. (2007). Real essentialism. Routledge, London.
Okasha, S. (2002). Darwinian metaphysics: species and the question of essentialism. Synthese 131:191–213.
Sober, E. (1993). Philosophy of Biology. Westview Press, Boulder.

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