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Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521692748
ISBN-10: 0521692741
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Editorial Reviews


"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

Book Description

How should the concept of evidence be understood? And how does it apply to the controversy surrounding creationism, natural selection and common ancestry? 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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (April 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521692741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521692748
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,098,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By xi'an on April 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science examines the philosophical foundations of the statistical arguments used to evaluate hypotheses in evolutionary biology, based on simple examples and likelihood ratios. The difficulty with reading the book from my/a statistician's perspective is the reluctance of the author to engage into model building and even less into parameter estimation. The first chapter nonetheless constitutes a splendid coverage of the most common statistical approaches to testing and model comparison, even though the advocation of the Akaike information criterion against Bayesian alternatives is rather forceful. The book also covers an examination of the "intelligent design" arguments against the Darwinian evolution theory, predictably if unnecessarily resorting to Popperian arguments to correctly argue that the creationist perspective fails to predict anything. The following chapters cover the more relevant issues of assessing selection versus drift and of testing for the presence of a common ancestor. While remaining a philosophy treatise, Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science is written in a way that is accessible to laymen, if rather unusual from a statistician viewpoint, and the insight about testing issues gained from Evidence and Evolution makes it a worthwhile read. In fact, it is very well-written, with hardly any typo (the unbiasedness property of AIC is stated at the bottom of page 101 with the expectation symbol E on the wrong side of the equation, Figure 3.8c is used instead of Figure 3.7c on page 204, Figure 4.Read more ›
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Elliott Sober (born 1948) is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has written other books, such as The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus, Reconstructing the Past: Parsimony, Evolution, and Inference, Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology, Ockham's Razors: A User's Manual, Core Questions in Philosophy: A Text with Readings, Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?: Philosophical Essays on Darwin's Theory, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 2008 book, "This book is aimed at philosophers of science and evolutionary biologists. Both tend to have little patience with creationism... I do not think that `intelligent design' is a substantive scientific theory, but I am not satisfied with the standard reasons that have been offered to explain why this is so. For example, Karl Popper's ideas on falsifiability are often used in this context, but philosophers of science have long realized that there are serious problems with Popper's solution to the demarcation problem---the problem of separating science from nonscience...
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By John B. Sorrell on October 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
Very good intro chapters to evidence and epistemology
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30 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on June 18, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very technical book on the application of various theories of probabilities (Bayesian, likelihood theory etc) in respect of the claims of "Intelligent Design" and the theory of evolution. It is a matter of academic interest whether Elliot Sober's arguments are correct because they are couched in the technical language of symbolic logic. Insofar as one can understand the general drift, he appears to have shown that the Intelligent Design argument is founded on very weak evidence (including evidence to even support the theory). Sober then tried to apply the same formula in respect of evidence concerning the theory of evolution (and natural selection) and concluded, through a series of logical exercises, that the evidence may not be as conclusive as the evolutionary scientists would like us to believe. One of the main theses of Elliot Sober in this book is that there are many ways of ascertaining truth. He suggests that just because Intelligent Design is a flawed hypothesis that does not mean that the existence of God has not been proved. But similarly, even if evolutionary theory is flawed (as Sober also tries to show) that does not mean that God, therefore, exists. The existence or otherwise of a theistic being is a matter that is examined from many more viewpoints than just the evolutionary theory. I think that unless you are interested in formal logic, and want to test Sober's technical declarations and exercises, you may find this a difficult book to grind through.
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