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::: center home >> people >> visiting fellows, 2007-08 >> turner

Derek Turner
Connecticut College , USA
Spring 2008
Philosophical issues in historical science, especially paleontology and geology

Derek Turner ( Ph.D. Vanderbilt University) is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College, in New London, CT, where he teaches courses on philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, Darwin, and environmental philosophy. He was delighted to find that the Center for Philosophy of Science is right across the street from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. His recent book, Making Prehistory: Historical Science and the Scientific Realism Debate (Cambridge University Press, 2007) argues that the scientific realism debate has been skewed by philosophers’ failure to take seriously the special methodological problems of the historical sciences, especially paleontology and geology. For a short and accessible introduction to some of his current thinking about methodological issues in paleontology, see “Beyond Detective Work: Empirical Testing in Paleontology,” in M. Ruse, editor, The Philosophy of Biology (Prometheus Books, 2007).

Derek is currently exploring a cluster of questions about the study of historical trends in paleobiology and climate science. The problems he is interested in concern the metaphysics and epistemology of historical trends. As a case study, he has been thinking about Cope’s rule of size increase. What exactly is at stake when scientists disagree about the reality of a trend? How do such disagreements get settled? When paleobiologists conduct empirical tests to determine whether a trend is passive or driven, what are they really trying to learn? When scientists try to test the hypothesis that a trend is real, or that it is driven, are they testing causal hypotheses?

June 2008
I've had a book chapter published that you might not already know about.
"Beyond Detective Work: Empirical Testing in Paleobiology," in M. Ruse and D. Sepkoski (eds.), The Paleobiological Revolution, University of Chicago Press, 2008.

A shorter version of that same paper has also appeared as "Beyond Detective Work: Empirical Testing in Paleobiology," in M. Ruse (ed.), The Philosophy of Biology.  Prometheus Books, 2007, pp. 193-202.

June 2009
Derek recently published a paper on evolutionary trends in Biology and Philosophy that is the result of his work at the Center in the spring of 2008.

June 2011
Derek Turner has a new book, Paleontology: A Philosophical Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2011).  He began work on the project while at the Center in the spring of 2008.  He has also published a paper, "Gould's Replay Revisited," that he started during his semester in Pittsburgh.  The paper appears in Biology and Philosophy 26(2010): 65-79. 

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Revised 6/6/11 - Copyright 2009