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Neo-Paleyan evolution

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This talk explores an ongoing tradition – and perhaps a surprising one – that we can helpfully characterise as ‘Neo-Paleyanism’. Prominent evolutionary thinkers from Darwin to Maynard-Smith to Dawkins have repeatedly cited the work of the natural theologian William Paley with approval. Of course, they vehemently deny that biological phenomena demand explanation in terms of a designing intelligence. But they recommend attention to Paley’s criteria for the detection of adaptation in nature, and in some cases they have explicitly conceived of evolutionary processes in terms of the creation of design. In this talk we will see some reason for doubting the Neo-Paleyan approach, especially in its most recent incarnations.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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