Roberta L. Millstein


Roberta L. Millstein I am an Emerit Professor in the Department of Philosophy at UC Davis, retired from teaching but still researching. I am affiliated with the Science and Technology Studies (STS) Program and the John Muir Institute of the Environment. I co-run UCD's PhilBio Lab with Jim Griesemer.

I am a Co-Editor of the peer-reviewed open-access online journal Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology. I am also a Co-Chair of the History and Philosophy of Science section and a member of Council for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division (AAAS-PD). I am on the editorial boards for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the journal Philosophy of Science.

My past service for the profession includes the following roles: Senior Co-Chair of the PSA Women's Caucus; member of the Governing Board and the Program Committee for the PSA; Secretary, member of Council, and Program Co-chair for the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB), and an Elected Member-at-Large for the Section on History and Philosophy of Science of the AAAS.

I maintain a page of History & Philosophy of Biology Resources and I periodically blog for the Davisite group blog.


My research is in the philosophy of science, the history & philosophy of biology, and environmental ethics. I am particularly interested in evolutionary biology, ecology, and environmental issues, and the intersections between them.

With respect to evolutionary biology, I have particularly focused on central processes in evolution such as natural selection, random drift, sexual selection, and social selection, as well as central concepts in evolution such as fitness, population, metapopulation, race, and environment. This has included analysis of the general philosophy of science concepts of chance, probability, causation, causal processes, and determinism/indeterminism, and the ways in which they manifest (or fail to manifest) within evolutionary processes. My conceptual work has been informed by my historical work, which includes analysis of some central 20th century debates in evolutionary biology, such as the neutral and “nearly neutral” theories of evolution and the empirical study of the land snail Cepaea nemoralis in the wild.

With respect to ecology, I have examined the historical and contemporary connections between ecology and population genetics. As part of a more extensive research project, I have re-interpreted and defended the work of 20th century ecologist (forester, wildlife manager, conservationist) Aldo Leopold, analyzing land communities (roughly similar to biotic communities/ecosystems), interdependence, functions/functioning, and predator/prey dynamics. Inasmuch as these ideas arise in the context of Leopold's land ethic, this project is also a project in environmental ethics. I am currently working on a book length analysis and defense of the land ethic, tentatively titled The Land Is Our Community: A Land Ethic for the New Millennium. Other work in environmental ethics examines the implications of the environmental impacts of GMOs and argues for how we ought to think of the field of environmental ethics.

I am a co-editor of Mechanism and Causality in Biology and Economics with Hsiang-Ke Chao and Szu-Ting Chen (see book review by Anya Plutynski) and co-editor of Genomics and Philosophy of Race with Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther and Rasmus Nielsen. I have published in journals such as Philosophy of Science, Biology and Philosophy, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Journal of the History of Biology, Ethics, Policy & Environment, Biological Conservation, and Biological Theory.

Papers online: See my curriculum vitae for links to my papers and other information about my academic career.

Interview: SCI PHI Podcast

Other pages about me or my work: Wikipedia, Google Scholar, PhilPapers

Recorded presentations:


Although I am not teaching anymore, for history's sake, here are the syllabi for courses that I taught at UC Davis in the last incarnation in which I taught them. At some point I will take these down...

Contacting me:

By snail mail:

Professor Emerit Roberta L. Millstein
Department of Philosophy
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-8673

By email:

By phone: 530-754-0715 (not a good way to reach me - please email)

On Twitter: @Cepaea