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It is fitting that on the 160th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species and the 210th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, we may have the opportunity to offer a symposium and a range of reviews focused on evolutionary biology.
Among the reviews, Michael Flannery appraises two new books about the challenges to Darwinian orthodoxy—historical challenges as described in Randall Fuller’s The Book that Changed America; and a new scientific challenge by Michael J. Behe in Darwin Devolves. This survey review sits appropriately alongside Patrick Armstrong’s assessment of Flannery’s own Nature’s Prophet: Alfred Wallace and His Evolution from Natural Selection to Natural Theology; Roderick David Buchanan’s review of Thierry Hoquet’s excellent Revisiting the Origin of Species; and Richard Weikart’s appraisal of Michael Ruse’s book, The Problem of War, on the relationship between Darwinians and Christians. Meanwhile, Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen assesses the argument for evolutionary moral progress (Buchanan & Powell, The Evolution of Moral Progress) and Lucas Matthews examines genomics-informed inheritance (Plomin, Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are).
However, the centerpiece of this Issue of Metascience is, as always, the symposium. This time we bring together two philosophers, Daniel Dennett and Hannah Rubin, and a biologist, Andy Gardner, to discuss Samir Okasha’s Agents and Goals in Evolution. These four authors, including Okasha’s reply to his reviewers, weigh up the philosophical and scientific implications of the utilization of the concept of “agential thinking,” whereby human rationalized strategies of survival are transposed onto the study of biology. We could not have hoped for a more appropriate group of scholars to discuss Okasha’s book, which promises to be a seminal contribution to the philosophy of the biological sciences.
We would like to put it to our readers that this collection of reviews—weighing up new challenges in the history and philosophy of Darwinism and the biological sciences—exemplifies the purpose of this journal. As our name—Metascience—suggests, through our gathering of reviewers, we intend to offer appraisal of a synthesis of publications that contest contemporary views about the history and philosophy of scientific inquiry. Such synthesis brings together the approaches of scholars from a range of fields, as is demonstrated in this Issue with contributions from a biologist, a physician, a psychologist, and (not surprisingly) several eminent philosophers and historians.
There are many other excellent reviews in this Issue. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed bringing them to you.