Chapter

Sex Ratio Theory, Ancient and Modern: An Eighteenth-Century Debate about Intelligent Design and the Development of Models in Evolutionary Biology

Elliott Sober

in Genesis Redux

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780226720807
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226720838 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226720838.003.0008
Sex Ratio Theory, Ancient and Modern: An Eighteenth-Century Debate about Intelligent Design and the Development of Models in Evolutionary Biology

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This chapter demonstrates how Charles Darwin's theory inaugurated a steady progression toward an ever-sharper distinction between living creatures and artificial devices, and describes how natural life became nonartificial. Artificial life contrasts with life found in nature. Sex ratio provides an interesting case study of the problem of whether one should regard living things as artifacts or as the result of mindless natural processes. John Arbuthnot believes that a benevolent deity would seek to insure an even sex ratio at the age of marriage. Nicolas Bernoulli concludes that Arbuthnot's data provide no argument at all for Divine Providence. The problem with Arbuthnot's argument is that he does not keep the tasks of proximate and ultimate explanation separate. Modern sex ratio theory makes testable predictions about the sex ratios observed. The Even foundress has been more successful in producing grandoffspring.

Keywords: sex ratio theory; Charles Darwin; living creatures; artificial devices; natural life; John Arbuthnot; Nicolas Bernoulli

Chapter.  12896 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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