Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 611–655

The logical structure of evolutionary explanation and prediction: Darwinism’s fundamental schema


DOI: 10.1007/s10539-014-9444-0

Cite this article as:
Tennant, N. Biol Philos (2014) 29: 611. doi:10.1007/s10539-014-9444-0


We present a logically detailed case-study of Darwinian evolutionary explanation. Special features of Darwin’s explanatory schema made it an unusual theoretical breakthrough, from the point of view of the philosophy of science. The schema employs no theoretical terms, and puts forward no theoretical hypotheses. Instead, it uses three observational generalizations—Variability, Heritability and Differential Reproduction—along with an innocuous assumption of Causal Efficacy, to derive Adaptive Evolution as a necessary consequence. Adaptive Evolution in turn, with one assumption of scale (‘Deep Time’), implies the observational generalization of Adaptation. It is a fascinating methodological task to regiment the premises and make the reasoning both rigorous and clear. Doing so reveals how surprisingly small an amount of mathematics is needed in order to carry out the argument. The investigation also reveals the crucial role played by heritability, and how heritability itself admits of Darwinian explanation.


Evolution Adaptation Heritability Differential reproduction Variability 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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