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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)
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)
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)
  • Elliott Sober
  • 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)
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 problem of simplicity involves three questions: How is the simplicity of a hypothesis to be measured? How is the use of simplicity as a guide to hypothesis choice to be justified? And how is simplicity related to other desirable features of hypotheses-that is, how is simplicity to be traded-off? The present paper explores these three questions, from a(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)
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