How much can we know about the causes of evolutionary trends?
- 200 Downloads
One of the first questions that paleontologists ask when they identify a large-scale trend in the fossil record (e.g., size increase, complexity increase) is whether it is passive or driven. In this article, I explore two questions about driven trends: (1) what is the underlying cause or source of the directional bias? and (2) has the strength of the directional bias changed over time? I identify two underdetermination problems that prevent scientists from giving complete answers to these two questions.
KeywordsCope’s rule Macroevolution Paleobiology Trends Underdetermination
I am grateful for the comments and criticisms that I received on versions of this article that I presented at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Philosophy of Science in January, 2008, and Tufts University in September, 2008. I also thank Michael Baumgartner, Delphine Chapuis-Schmitz, Richard Dawid, Mehmet Elgin, Simon Feldman, Patrick Forber, Nina Martin, Dan McShea, Sandra Mitchell, John Norton, Andrew Pessin, Ed Slowik, Kim Sterelny, and Jim Woodward for their comments on earlier versions. My work on this project was supported by a fellowship from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Philosophy of Science.
- Arnold AJ, Kelly DC, Parker WC (1995) Causality and Cope’s rule: evidence from the planktonic foraminifera. J Paleontol 69(2):203–210Google Scholar
- Brandon R (1990) Adaptation and environment. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Cope ED (1974) The origin of the fittest and the primary factors of organic evolution. Arno Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Fortey RA, Owens RM (1990) Trilobites. In: McNamara KJ (ed) Evolutionary trends. Belhaven Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Gould SJ (1996) Full house: the spread of excellence from Plato to Darwin. Harmony Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Kingsolver JG, Pfennig DW (2004) Individual-level selection as a cause of Cope’s rule of phyletic size increase. Evol Int J Org Evol 58:1608–1612Google Scholar
- Maynard SJ, Szathmary E (1995) The major transitions in evolution. W.H. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- McFadden B (1986) Fossil horses from ‘Eohippus’ (Hyracotherium) to Equus: scaling, Cope’s law, and the evolution of body size. Paleobiology 12(4):355–369Google Scholar
- Sober E (2008) Evidence and evolution: the logic behind the science. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Sterelny K (2007) Macroevolution, minimalism, and the radiation of the animals. In: Hull DL, Ruse M (eds) The Cambridge companion to the philosophy of biology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 182–210Google Scholar
- Turner D (2007) Making prehistory: historical science and the scientific realism debate. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Turner D (in press) Beyond detective work: empirical testing in paleobiology. In: Ruse M, Sepkoski D (eds) The paleobiological revolution: essays on the growth of modern paleontology. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar