Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Evidence and Evolution (Index)

One of the more rewarding books to cross my desk in the past year was Elliot Sober's Evidence and Evolution. The name might be deceptive: this is not an easy-to-read book setting out various bits of evidence for evolution (like Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True); this is a long, technical and difficult book on epistemology and the philosophy of science.

It was rewarding because it introduced me to a new way of looking at certain issues. Prior to reading Sober, I was a bit of Bayes-virgin. I have now been engrossed in the topic for six months or so (I'm still little more than a dabbler).

Sober covers four topics in what are really four separate books:
  1. The different statistical tools we can use to assess theories (Bayesianism, Likelihoodism, and Frequentism).
  2. Intelligent Design (focusing a lot on the correct formulation of the design argument and the testability of hypotheses).
  3. Natural Selection (comparing it to other theories of evolutionary change).
  4. Common Ancestry (testing the theory of branching descent).
As a good philosopher, Sober reaches no firm conclusions on any of these topics.

I am going to do occasional posts on this book. I will not go through it in the same detail as I am doing with other books on this blog. That said, I am going to take a considerable whack at the chapter on Intelligent Design simply because it straddles two of my own interests: philosophy of science and religious philosophy. I am also going to use some of the material from chapter one in a series covering Bayes Theorem.

I will take this at a fairly leisurely pace. This is a book to be savoured and chewed-over, not gulped down at one sitting.

Anyway, this post will, eventually, serve as an index for all others.


  1. You, sir, are crazy ambitious.

    You desperately need a 'Table of Contents' page that lists all your series indices, just like on my site.

  2. Of course, Sober is a likelihoodist, not a Bayesian.

  3. Yes, I read your review. As you said, book one seems to adopt a form of pluralism, but he prefers likelihoodism in the other parts.

    The chapter on intelligent design, which I will cover in depth, is all about likelihoodism.

  4. Still, I thought chapter one was a good intro to the whole area (at least, it was for me).