Biology & Philosophy

, 24:341 | Cite as

How much can we know about the causes of evolutionary trends?

  • Derek D. Turner


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.


Cope’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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyConnecticut CollegeNew LondonUSA

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