Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 419–437 | Cite as

Evidentiary inference in evolutionary biology

Review of Elliott Sober’s (2008) Evidence and evolution: the logic behind the science. Cambridge University Press, New York
  • James Justus
Review Essay


The relationship between evidence and hypothesis provides the epistemic authority of empirical science. But standard statistical philosophies understand the relationship very differently, advancing incompatible inference methods that sometimes yield conflicting results about evidentiary support. These methodological tensions are manifested throughout evolutionary theory, from debates between Pearson and Fisher over biometry and chi-squared testing (Baird 1983; Morrison 2002), to recent controversies in phylogenetics about Bayesianism and model selection criteria (Ronquist 2004; Kelcher and Thomas 2007). This makes the clarity Sober brings to the subject scientifically valuable as well as philosophically illuminating. The wide variety of topics addressed and extensive utilization of technical work in statistics proper demonstrate mastery over the difficult issues involved.

Evidence and Evolutioncompiles and integrates many of Sober’s recent publications. Chapter 1...



Thanks to Mark Colyvan, Jenann Ismael, Adam LaCaze, Katie Steele, and especially Aidan Lyon and Elliott Sober for helpful feedback. Reading group discussions at the University of Sydney and Florida State University were also beneficial. I am grateful to the Australian Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities Research Hub: Applied Environmental Decision Analysis and the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science for research support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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