Elliott Sober

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Traditional analyses of the curve fitting problem maintain that the data do not indicate what form the fitted curve should take. Rather, this issue is said to be settled by prior probabilities, by simplicity, or by a background theory. In this paper, we describe a result due to Akaike [1973], which shows how the data can underwrite an inference concerning(More)
In the past few decades, sex differences in spatial cognition have often been attributed to adaptation in response to natural selection. A common explanation is that home range size differences between the sexes created different cognitive demands pertinent to wayfinding in each sex and resulted in the evolution of sex differences in spatial navigational(More)
Two of the main methods that biologists now use to infer phylogenetic relationships are maximum likelihood and maximum parsimony. The method of maximum likelihood seeks to find the tree topology that confers the highest probability on the observed characteristics of tip species. The method of maximum parsimony seeks to find the tree topology that requires(More)
Akaike’s framework for thinking about model selection in terms of the goal of predictive accuracy and his criterion for model selection have important philosophical implications. Scientists often test models whose truth values they already know, and they often decline to reject models that they know full well are false. Instrumentalism helps explain this(More)
The hypothesis that all life on earth traces back to a single common ancestor is a fundamental postulate in modern evolutionary theory. Yet, despite its widespread acceptance in biology, there has been comparatively little attention to formally testing this "hypothesis of common ancestry". We review and critically examine some arguments that have been(More)
The concept of fitness began its career in biology long before evolutionary theory was mathematized. Fitness was used to describe an organism’s vigor, or the degree to which organisms “fit” into their environments. An organism’s success in avoiding predators and in building a nest obviously contribute to its fitness and to the fitness of its offspring, but(More)
This article reviews two standard criticisms of creationism/intelligent design (ID)): it is unfalsifiable, and it is refuted by the many imperfect adaptations found in nature. Problems with both criticisms are discussed. A conception of testability is described that avoids the defects in Karl Popper's falsifiability criterion. Although ID comes in multiple(More)
Individuals become functionally organized to survive and reproduce in their environments by the process of natural selection. The question of whether larger units such as groups and communities can possess similar properties of functional organization, and therefore be regarded as "superorganisms", has a long history in biological thought. Modern(More)
  • Elliott Sober
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…
  • 2009
After clarifying how Darwin understood natural selection and common ancestry, I consider how the two concepts are related in his theory. I argue that common ancestry has evidential priority. Arguments about natural selection often make use of the assumption of common ancestry, whereas arguments for common ancestry do not require the assumption that natural(More)