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Evidence and Evolution : A Review

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  • Christian P. Robert


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    Evidence and Evolution: the Logic behind the Science was publishedin 2008 by Elliott Sober. It examines the philosophical foundations of the sta-tistical arguments used to evaluate hypotheses in evolutionary biology, based onsimple examples and likelihood ratios. The difficulty with reading the book froma statistician’s perspective is the reluctance of the author to engage into modelbuilding and even less into parameter estimation. The first chapter nonethelessconstitutes a splendid coverage of the most common statistical approaches to test-ing and model comparison, even though the advocation of the Akaike informationcriterion against Bayesian alternatives is rather forceful. The book also covers anexamination of the "intelligent design" arguments against the Darwinian evolutiontheory, predictably if unnecessarily resorting to Popperian arguments to correctlyargue that the creationist perspective fails to predict anything. The followingchapters cover the more relevant issues of assessing selection versus drift and oftesting for the presence of a common ancestor. While remaining a philosophytreatise, Evidence and Evolution is written in a way that is accessible to laymen, ifrather unusual from a statistician viewpoint, and the insight about testing issuesgained from Evidence and Evolution makes it a worthwhile read.

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    Paper provided by Center for Research in Economics and Statistics in its series Working Papers with number 2010-23.

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    Length: 13
    Date of creation: 2010
    Handle: RePEc:crs:wpaper:2010-23
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