Journal Article

Darwin's Pangenesis and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives1

P. Kyle Stanford

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 57, issue 1, pages 121-144
Published in print March 2006 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online February 2006 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axi158
Darwin's Pangenesis and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives1

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In earlier work I have argued that the most substantial threat to scientific realism arises from the problem of unconceived alternatives: the repeated failure of past scientists and scientific communities to conceive of alternatives to extant scientific theories, even when such alternatives were both (1) well confirmed by the evidence available at the time and (2) sufficiently scientifically serious as to be later embraced by actual scientific communities. In this paper I explore Charles Darwin's development and defense of his ‘pangenesis’ theory of inheritance and conclude that this particular historical example offers impressive support for the challenge posed to realism by this problem of unconceived alternatives.

Introduction

Darwin and pangenesis: The search for the material basis of generation and heredity

A crucial unconceived alternative: common-cause mechanisms of inheritance

Galton and common-cause inheritance

Conclusion

Journal Article.  11632 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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