Front Page Titles (by Subject) Survival of the Fittest Paradigms? - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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Survival of the Fittest Paradigms? - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Survival of the Fittest Paradigms?
“Limitations of An Evolutionist Philosophy of Science.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 8 (1977): 349–352
Recently, philosophy of science has been preoccupied with the “rational reconstruction of scientific progress.” One influential type of rational reconstruction is Stephen Toulmin's controversial analogy that reads scientific progress in terms of Darwinian categories borrowed from organic evolution. This epistemological theory looks to natural selection for a model of how scientists acquire and develop knowledge.
In Foresight and Understanding (1961), Toulmin claimed that in science, as in the evolution of biological species, change in concepts results from the selective perpetuation of idea variants. His later book, Human Understanding (1972) constructed an evolutionist model for the development of scientific progress. Just as species evolve through adaptive mutations of individual organisms in response to environmental pressures, so scientific disciplines evolve through changes in paradigms (or concepts, methods, and aims) in response to disciplinary pressures for deeper understanding.
Toulmin's evolutionist epistemology has been challenged by L. Jonathan Cohen in “Is the Progress of Science Evolutionary?” [British Journal of the Philosophy of Science 24 (1973): 41–61]. Cohen exposes weaknesses in the supposed analogy between scientific growth and organic evolution. Firstly, conceptual variants are not “mutations” that arise spontaneously, since scientists deliberately invent conceptual variants to solve problems. Secondly, a biological species differs markedly from a “Population of concepts,” none of whose members needs to be in “competition” with another. Thirdly, the identity-through-change of a biological species differs from the identity-through-change of a scientific discipline. To solve conceptual problems within a discipline requires a set of interrelated concepts, not a population of concepts with similar characteristics.