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Roberta L. Millstein


  • Ph.D., Philosophy with minor in History of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota, 1997
  • M.A., Philosophy, University of Minnesota, 1993
  • A.B., Computer Science and Philosophy (double major), Dartmouth College, 1988


Roberta L. Millstein is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at UC Davis; in addition, she is affiliated with the Science and Technology Studies (STS) Program, the John Muir Institute of the Environment, and the UC Davis Interdisciplinary Animal Studies Research Group.

She serves as Co-Editor of the peer-reviewed open-access online journal Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology. She is also a member of the Executive Committee and Council for the AAAS Pacific Division, an Elected Member-at-Large for the Section on History and Philosophy of Science of the AAAS, and a member of Council for the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB).  She is on the editorial boards for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the journal Philosophy of Science.

She served as the Senior Co-Chair of the Philosophy of Science Association's (PSA) Women's Caucus (2013-2017), on the Governing Board of the PSA (2010-2013), and as Secretary of ISHPSSB (2007-2011).

Research Focus

Professor Milstein's research interests include the way that general topics in the philosophy of science, such as causation, mechanisms, probability, and determinism, illuminate and are illuminated by topics in evolutionary biology and ecology. She is also particularly interested in intersections between evolutionary biology, ecology, and environmental issues.

Her recent work examines the concepts of "fitness," "population," and "random drift"; race and sexual selection; GMOs and the so-called “war on science”; and connections between population genetics and ecology. She is currently working on projects exploring Patricia Gowaty's adaptively flexible sex role model, on the importance of interconnectedness in Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic, and on the way that laboratory experiments, field experiments, and natural experiments can jointly inform us about ecological and evolutionary interactions. 

Selected Publications

  • Millstein, R. L. (2016), Probability in biology: The case of fitness, in A. Hájek and C. R. Hitchcock (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Probability and Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 601-622.
  • Millstein, R. L. (2015) Re-examining the Darwinian basis for Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, Ethics, Policy & Environment 18: 301-317.
  • Millstein, R. L. (2015) Thinking about populations and races in time, In Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 52: 5-11. Special issue on Genomics and Philosophy of Race, R. G. Winther, R. L. Millstein, and R. Nielsen (Eds.)
  • Millstein, R. L. (2014) How the concept of population resolves concepts of environment, Philosophy of Science 81: 741-755.
  • Millstein, R. L. (2015) GMOs? Not so fast, The Common Reader: A Journal of the Essay 1: 33-46.
  • Millstein, R. L. (2013) Natural selection and causal productivity: A reply to Glennan, In H. Chao, S. Chen, and R. L. Millstein (Eds.), Mechanism and Causality in Biology and Economics, Springer, 147-163.
  • Millstein, R. L. (2012) Darwin's explanation of races by means of sexual selection, In Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43: 627-633.
  • Millstein, R. L. (2010) The concepts of population and metapopulation in evolutionary biology and ecology, In M. A. Bell, D. J. Futuyma, W. F. Eanes, and J. S. Levinton (Eds.), Evolution Since Darwin: The First 150 Years, Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 61-86.
  • Millstein, R. L., Skipper, R. A., & Dietrich, M. R. (2009) (Mis)interpreting mathematical models: Drift as a physical process, Philosophy and Theory in Biology 1:e002.


Philosophy of Biological Sciences, Environmental Ethics, Introduction to Philosophy of Biology, Introduction to Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Biology Seminar, Environmental Ethics Seminar, Philosophy of Science Seminar