Evidence and Evolution

The Logic Behind the Science

Evidence and Evolution

How should the concept of evidence be understood? And how does the concept of evidence apply to the controversy about creationism as well as to work in evolutionary biology about natural selection and common ancestry? In this rich and wide-ranging book, Elliott Sober investigates general questions about probability and evidence and shows how the answers he develops to those questions apply to the specifics of evolutionary biology. Drawing on a set of fascinating examples, he analyzes whether claims about intelligent design are untestable; whether they are discredited by the fact that many adaptations are imperfect; how evidence bears on whether present species trace back to common ancestors; how hypotheses about natural selection can be tested, and many other issues. His book will interest all readers who want to understand philosophical questions about evidence and evolution, as they arise both in Darwin's work and in contemporary biological research.


"Elliott Sober, a philosopher of science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has long been a leader in this school [epistemology and ethics], and his latest work, Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science, shows why he commands our attention. He is interested in the question of evidence for theories, and he shows through a careful analysis of statistical thinking (particularly Bayesian thinking) how one can make informed decisions about claims made in biology."
Michael Ruse, Scientific American>br>

"[Sober applies his]...insights into evaluation of evidence to show precisely why proponents of intelligent design are dead wrong (it is not, surprisingly, for the usual reasons trotted out by some evolutionary biologists), to understand the best ways to contrast the alternative hypotheses of drift and selection, and to discuss tests of natural selection vs. common ancestry in the case of comparative phylogenetic studies. There is much good food for thought here, and the book is well worth the investment of time and neural firings that it requires to get to the end of it."
Massimo Pigliucci, Stony Brook University, Ecology and Evolution

"For anyone who is interested in increasing one’s understanding of evidence and how it bears on evolutionary theory, Sober’s book is the best place to begin. In fact, it is the best place to end as well. The likelihood that anyone else will be able to do a better job is slim to non-existent."
David Hull, Northwestern University, BioSciences

"Sober utilizes evolution and cited evidence as the proving ground for detailed philosophical account of evidence for empirical claims...a well-grounded philosophical account of the logic of evidence or induction...Summing up: Recommended."
D. Bantz, University of Alaska, Choice

"This volume belongs on every biologist's bookshelf and should be on the required reading list of every graduate student with the least interest in evolutionary biology."
E.O. Wiley, The Quarterly Review of Biology

"....Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science offers a masterful epistemological treatment of scientific inference and justification in the context of evolutionary biology...."
Ingo Brigandt, University of Alberta, Canadian Journal of Philosophy