Category Archives: Drift

Updated CV

For my upcoming evaluation, I put together an updated CV. On the off chance that it might interest someone, here it is.

Well, it’s not just an exersize in narcissism. I really struggled to figure out how to divide up the various kinds of projects I have been working on, in the “Scholarship” section. I settled on the following.

  • Book chapter (peer reviewed)
  • Conferences
  • Edited works. Includes my digital republication of the Origin of Species.
  • Invited lecture.
  • Ontology.
  • Bibliography.
  • “Evolution Resources” column in Evolution: Education and Outreach.
  • Book reviews.
  • Web presence. Blogs, twitter.
  • Development. I am the BibDesk release engineer. Lapsed, apparently. Seriously, though, I will get to the next release soon.
  • Computing. Applications, including svn, Emacs, other development tools.

I have no idea what this will mean to the Dean, the Provost, or the evaluation committee. Nor will I find out, either, except by way of a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

It’s important to differentiate these different kinds of works according to their nature and purpose, rather than lumping them together as “web publications” or “software.” Look, we don’t put journal articles, posters, and books in the same category because they are all printed materials (or at least, used to be). In fact, some of the digital works do more or less the same thing as their print analogs, for instance, bibliographies. Whether in print or in the form of a BibTeX database, a collection of bibliographic records serve the same essential functions.

One thing that is clear, whatever other confusions there may be, is that I need to publish papers in the usual places, peer-reviewed periodicals, whether online or in any other form.

I’d be interested to hear about how other people in the Humanities working on digital projects have represented them to their administrators.

Chance and Explanation in Evolutionary Biology

The page on this site at Philosophy > Chance and Explanation has been updated with the following:

  1. A brief essay describing my work in history and philosophy of science concerning chance and explanation in evolutionary biology.
  2. My PhD thesis. The abstract: The central claim for which I argue in this dissertation is that there are important phenomena that occur by random drift that evolutionary biologists explain using a strategy I term “process explanation.” This claim puts me at odds with an influential view about the nature of explanation that I term “Hempelianism.” Hempelianism is the view that the scientific explanation of a particular event E requires (a) showing that E was to be expected, or indicating the degree to which it would have been rational to expect E’s occurrence; and (b) laws of nature. My central claim entails that both (a) and (b) are false. A process explanation consists of a narrative describing events causally relevant to the event to be explained. These narratives need not contain laws, show that the event to explained ought to have been expected, or indicate the degree to which it would have been rational to expect the event. My position about random drift also puts me at odds with evolutionists who, influenced by Hempelianism, claim that only natural selection can explain evolution. In my argument, I articulate the strategy of process explanation and defend it against Hempelian critics; describe a mechanism of random drift known as “indiscriminate sampling;” and describe process explanations of phenomena of drift that occur by indiscriminate sampling.