Explanatory Pluralism in Paleobiology

Todd A. Grantham
1999 Philosophy of Science  
This paper is a defense of "explanatory pluralism" (i.e., the view that some events can be correctly explained in two distinct ways). To defend pluralism, I argue that a certain class of macroevolutionary trends (what I call "asymmetrical passive trends") can be explained in two distinct but compatible ways. The first approach ("actual sequence explanation") is to trace out the particular forces that affect each species. The second approach treats the trend as "passive" or "random" diffusion
more » ... m a boundary in morphological space. I argue that while these strategies are distinct, both kinds of explanation can be true of a single trend. Further, since neither strategy can be reduced or eliminated from paleobiology, we should accept that both strategies can provide correct explanations for a single trend. 1. Two distinct explanatory strategies must offer explanations for a single event. Unless these strategies are truly distinct, any case of pluralism will be merely apparent.
doi:10.1086/392727 fatcat:x5w3qrropfgp3fyw4cpimt6nsy