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

Philosophy of Biology (PHIL*2000)

Code and section: PHIL*2000*01

Term: Winter 2019

Instructor: Stefan Linquist


This course is designed for Integrative Biology majors 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.  Topics to be explored in this course will the following.

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 problems of biological altruism and how to identify adaptations.

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

Ecology:  Critics of ecology argue that it has failed to discover any generalizations or “laws” that are useful for ecosystem management. We will critically evaluate this claim and consider how laws in ecology measure up against those of other disciplines.

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


Course Outline