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Student Publishes in Top Philosophy Journal

PhD philosophy student Lindsay Craig's views on evolutionary development biology will be featured in an upcoming issue of 'Philosophy of Science.'

Date: 11/6/2009
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Kim Burdett
Controversy. Some people shy away from it, but for doctoral student Lindsay Craig, it’s the entire reason she chose a path in philosophy.

“When you get involved in the material and come up with debates, it’s exciting. I feel like I can do and say something that people will actually listen to,” she says.

Lindsay Craig.
Lindsay Craig's critique of claims by two evolutionary biologists will appear in the next issue of Philosophy of Science.

They’re listening, all right. In a paper called “Defending Evo-Devo: A Response to Hoekstra and Coyne,” Craig critiques a publication by two evolutionary biologists on the biggest platform a philosopher of science can hope for: "Philosophy of Science."

“The journal Philosophy of Science is the best journal in our field,” says Robert Skipper, philosophy associate professor and department head, who is also Craig’s advisor. “If you publish there, it can make your career. To get published as a graduate student is a big deal.”

Evolutionary development biology (informally evo-devo) is a topic that looks at the development processes of various species to understand more about how development evolves. One claim by evo-devo biologists is that novel body forms evolve differently from other traits, but biologists such as Hoekstra and Coyne assert there isn’t enough evidence for the claim.

“When Rob gave me the paper to look at, it was obvious to me that they were making claims that were not supported by the biological literature,” Craig says. “Hoekstra and Coyne were criticizing the claim that morphology evolves differently. But when I went through the biological literature, I found a vast number of papers that actually do support this claim.”

Lindsay Craig speaking at Taft Symposium.
At the 2009 Taft Symposium, Craig spoke about her research as a dissertation fellow. (Photo courtesy of Taft Research Center)

Craig became interested in the philosophy of evolutionary biology as an undergraduate at Butler University, where she was a science, technology and society major. When she took a philosophy of biology course and loved it, her advisor pushed her to come to the Department of Philosophy at University of Cincinnati to work with renowned biology philosophers Robert Skipper and Robert Richardson.

When she submitted the paper to Philosophy of Science, she wasn’t expecting it to get accepted. Since she’s heard news that it will be in the journal (volume 76, number 3), she has been focusing on how the publication will help her land a job after earning her PhD this spring.

That and she’s happy to be contributing to a field that is so new and controversial, she says.

“Of course scientists know the biology much better than [we philosophers] do, but we understand science from a different level. We try to understand how they’re developing theories, how science changes over time, what scientific explanations should look like,” Craig says. “We may not be in the lab doing what they’re doing, but we’re still studying an aspect of science that is important for the field to be done correctly.”

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