Philosophy of Biology (PHIL*2000) | College of Arts

Philosophy of Biology (PHIL*2000)

Code and section: PHIL*2000*01

Term: Winter 2018

Instructor: Stefan Linquist


Philosophy of Biology is a new course designed for students in the life sciences who are interested in theoretical questions and controversial ideas. Students will develop skills in critical thinking and gain practice in analytical writing. No background in philosophy is required. The following topics will be covered in the course.

Evolution:  A controversial issue in evolutionary biology concerns the level(s) at which natural selection occurs. This course will explore selfish gene theory, focusing on the problem of altruism and how to identify adaptations.

Genetics:   Molecular biologists are interested in identifying the functions of genetic elements. We will consider recent debates over the distinction between functional versus junk DNA, and how to identify functions at the molecular level.

Biodiversity:   The preservation of biodiversity is seen as an important conservation goal. But what is biodiversity and why is it so important? We will critically evaluate some of the primary arguments including bioprospecting, ecosystem services, and the precautionary principle.

Society:   Popular debates over climate change and childhood vaccines demonstrate the importance of public trust in science. We consider the methods and practices that generate trust in science, and factors that threaten to undermine it.

Prerequisites are 2.0 credits with 0.5 credits in BIOL. Assessment will be based on approximately six short written assignments and a take home final. For more information contact Dr. Stefan Linquist:

Course Outline