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The functions of fossils: inference and explanation in functional morphology

Authors
Journal
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
1369-8486
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
31
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/s1369-8486(99)00043-6
Disciplines
  • Logic

Abstract

Abstract This paper offers an account of the relationship between inference and explanation in functional morphology which combines Robert Brandon's theory of adaptation explanation with standard accounts of inference to the best explanation. Inferences of function from structure, it is argued, are inferences to the best adaptation explanation. There are, however, three different approaches to the problem of determining which adaptation explanation is the best. The theory of inference to the best adaptation explanation is then applied to a case study from the history of functional morphology: the case of the crested duckbilled dinosaurs.

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