On the concepts of scientific law, fitness, reproduction, persistence, and race in the biological sciences

Format Guidelines:

Roughly five pages (not including bibliography page), approximately1400-1500 word count (1500 is the strict max), double spaced, 12pt Times New Roman font, with standard 1” margins.

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Sources used must be cited; this includes both in-text citations and a bibliography. Course readings, lecture notes, and outside sources may be used as references to support your position. Avoid lengthy quotes; we want to hear your position and reasoning on the issue.


There is a minimum of one source for this paper (from the course readings), which needs to be included in the required bibliography. You can either use only course readings or you can conduct additional research. An “A” grade paper can be written with just one source, so it’s up to you to decide whether additional sources would be useful for your argumentation.


Useful resource for citation practices: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html


Include only your name and student ID# at the top of the page (single spaced, left or right side is fine).


Include a word count (this includes in-text citations, but not the bibliography), placed at the bottom of the 5th (or final) page of your writing, and before your bibliography page.


The paper must be uploaded to Canvas (in Assignments); please only upload Word (.doc) or PDF (.pdf) formatted papers.


You may choose a title for your paper if you like – can be included as a single line on the first page, but it is not required (please do not use a title page – it just encumbers grading your papers on Canvas).


Writing Prompt:

The latter half of our course has taken us into the literature on some of the central topics within philosophy of biology. Namely, we have been looking at the concepts of “scientific law”, “fitness” (in evolutionary biology – not the kind you find at the gym), “reproduction”, “persistence”, and “race”, within the context of the biological sciences. Much like the discourse on health concepts, it is clear that various positions exist with regards to how biologists and philosophers of biology approach these concepts in research and practice. It’s your turn to enter the discussion on ONE of these three concepts (and again – it is these concepts specifically with respect to biology that you must provide your own analysis and argument).

For this paper please choose ONE of these main concepts listed above in bold that you would most like to discuss as your focus topic. The main task of this paper is to formulate an argument regarding your chosen concept through both negative and positive argumentation (STANDARD OPTION). The ALTERNATIVE OPTION is to write a purely critical (negative argument only).

For the Standard Option, you will need to both argue against an existing claim regarding your chosen concept (this is your negative argument) as well as argue in support of a particular claim (your positive argument – what you argue for). For your negative argument, you should choose a claim to argue against from one of the course readings (this is required for both options). For your positive argument, you should do your best to offer your own innovative claim in order to add to the discourse. However, you can also choose to support or strengthen an existing claim from one of the readings (either the same reading from your negative claim, or a totally different paper).

After providing both your negative and positive argumentation on the concept, you should consider an objection to your either your negative or positive argument (raise only one objection). If you choose the Alternative Option, please consider an objection to your negative argument. Think of it this way; after you have made your own addition to the discussion, consider how a reasonable person might disagree with what you’ve presented to the dialectic. This ‘reasonable person’ could be one of the authors we have read; knowing how they have argued in their papers, you can imagine how they might raise an objection to what you have argued for. Then, provide a response to their concern or objection from your own perspective again (but feel free to cite others to help substantiate your response).


Tasks to complete for this paper:

In the introductory paragraph, clearly indicate what you have chosen to discuss, i.e. the concept “fitness”, and provide a brief intro on that concept. Then state what your positive and negative argumentative claims (just your negative argument claim for the Alternative Option) will be, i.e.
“I argue that the “fitness” concept in biology should not include x as part of this evolutionary phenomena targeted by the concept. I then argue that “fitness” is a concept that should be able to include measures of y conditions.”  These claims put together are your thesis statement for the paper.


STANDARD OPTION: Argue against an existing claim for your negative argument, by providing at least one clear reason not to accept that claim. Then, argue for your positive claim, providing at least one clear reason in favor of accepting your claim. ALTERNATIVE OPTION: only provide a negative/critical argument against an existing claim from a course reading.


You must include at least one objection, as well as a response to that objection. The way you choose to incorporate the objection/response task into the structure of the paper is up to you. Both objection and response can usually be accomplished in either one paragraph or in two separate ones; your choice.


Finish the paper with a concluding paragraph. This can be a brief summary of what you have discussed and a restatement of your thesis, now that you have defended your position.



Clarity (10 points total):

4pts for correct formatting (TNR font, double spaced, 1” margins, citations, bibliography)
4pts for writing mechanics (paragraph & sentence structure, grammar, punctuation)
2pts for clearly identifying the chosen concept or distinction

Accuracy (5 points total):

2pts for providing one source and a bibliography
3pts for accurate representation of sources, along with proper in-text citation practices

Critical Reasoning/Persuasiveness (10 points total):

2pts for including your thesis statement in the first paragraph
2pts for negative argument (becomes 4pts in Alternative Option)
2pts for positive argument
2pts for objection/response to your position (stated in the thesis)
2pts for conclusion

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