Biological Sciences Faculty Publications

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On the basis that Darwin's theory of evolution encompasses two logically independent processes (common descent and natural selection), the only figure in On the Origin of Species (the Diagram of Divergence of Taxa) is often interpreted as illustrative of only one of these processes: the branching patterns representing common ancestry. Here, I argue that Darwin's Diagram of Divergence of Taxa represents a broad conceptual model of Darwin's theory, illustrating the causal efficacy of natural selection in producing well-defined varieties and ultimately species. The Tree Diagram encompasses the idea that natural selection explains common descent and the origin of organic diversity, thus representing a comprehensive model of Darwin's theory on the origin of species. I describe Darwin's Tree Diagram in relation to his argumentative strategy under the vera causa principle, and suggest that the testing of his theory based on the evidence from the geological record, the geographical distribution of organisms, and the mutual affinities of organic beings can be framed under the hypothetico-deductive method. Darwin's Diagram of Divergence of Taxa therefore represents a broad conceptual model that helps understanding the causal construction of Darwin's theory of evolution, the structure of his argumentative strategy, and the nature of his scientific methodology.

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The Quarterly Review of Biology

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