Acta Biotheoretica

, 57:11 | Cite as

In What Sense Does ‘Nothing Make Sense Except in the Light of Evolution’?

  • Paul Edmund GriffithsEmail author
Regular Article


Dobzhansky argued that biology only makes sense if life on earth has a shared history. But his dictum is often reinterpreted to mean that biology only makes sense in the light of adaptation. Some philosophers of science have argued in this spirit that all work in ‘proximal’ biosciences such as anatomy, physiology and molecular biology must be framed, at least implicitly, by the selection histories of the organisms under study. Others have denied this and have proposed non-evolutionary ways in which biologists can frame these investigations. This paper argues that an evolutionary perspective is indeed necessary, but that it must be a forward-looking perspective informed by a general understanding of the evolutionary process, not a backward-looking perspective informed by the specific evolutionary history of the species being studied. Interestingly, it turns out that there are aspects of proximal biology that even a creationist cannot study except in the light of a theory of their effect on future evolution.


Teleology Function Dobzhansky Millikan 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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