2.82 Evolutionary Biology

Category: Philosophy of Science

Keywords: fitness, drift, darwin, selection, evolutionary, populations, species, adaptation, organisms, sober, evolution, biologists, trait, population, variation

Number of Articles: 420
Percentage of Total: 1.3%
Rank: 24th

Weighted Number of Articles: 317.4
Percentage of Total: 1%
Rank: 44th

Mean Publication Year: 1993.3
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1988.5
Median Publication Year: 1999
Modal Publication Year: 2010

Topic with Most Overlap: Models (0.0268)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Functions (0.079)
Topic with Least Overlap: Heidegger and Husserl (0.00035)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Propositions and Implications (0.00023)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the evolutionary biologytopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 2006 when 3.0% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1878 when 0.0% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.82 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.188: Evolutionary biology.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Evolutionary Biologytopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 0.3%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 0.2%. Ethics - 0.3%. Philosophical Review - 0.2%. Analysis - 0.2%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.3%. Journal of Philosophy - 0.8%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 0.3%. Philosophy of Science - 4.1%. Noûs - 0.3%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.2%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 3.2%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 2006 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 2.3% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1878 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.0% of the articles.

Figure 2.189: Evolutionary biology articles in each journal.

Table 2.199: Characteristic articles of the evolutionary biology topic.
Table 2.200: Highly cited articles in the evolutionary biology topic.


This topic is one of the most notable, and one of the most exciting, developments in philosophy in the past few decades. My sense is that one of the reasons this became such a big topic in philosophy is that there was getting to be less and less support within biology departments for the kind of theoretical work about the foundations of evolution that is being done here. Whether that’s true or not, large numbers of philosophers have started taking up this work, and the results are impressive.

From the perspective of the model, one striking thing about this topic is the nature of the “highly cited articles” list. It isn’t the longest such list, though it is well above average. But most of the other topics that have a long list of highly cited articles have many of those articles only loosely connected to the topic. (See topic 24 for the most notable example of that.) It’s striking to see so many highly cited articles that the model is more than 50 percent confident are in one particular topic.

It’s easy to think of this as a somewhat “specialist” topic. Apart from a few articles in the Journal of Philosophy, pretty much all the work is in the two philosophy of science journals. But I think it’s a somewhat parochial view inside philosophy to think of this as a specialized subject. When walking around a large university, it would be easy to find more people who could follow, and were interested in, these papers than in the papers on reasons or on knowledge. It’s true that a relatively small percentage of philosophers could follow, or even are interested in following, the papers in this topic. But that might say more about philosophers than about the material.