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  1. Armando Aranda-Anzaldo (2001). Cancer Development and Progression: A Non-Adaptive Process Driven by Genetic Drift. Acta Biotheoretica 49 (2).
    The current mainstream in cancer research favours the idea that malignant tumour initiation is the result of a genetic mutation. Tumour development and progression is then explained as a sort of micro-evolutionary process, whereby an initial genetic alteration leads to abnormal proliferation of a single cell that leads to a population of clonally derived cells. It is widely claimed that tumour progression is driven by natural selection, based on the assumption that the initial tumour cells acquire some properties that endow (...)
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  2. Michael R. Dietrich & Roberta L. Millstein (2008). The Role of Causal Processes in the Neutral and Nearly Neutral Theories. Philosophy of Science 75 (5):548-559.
    The neutral and nearly neutral theories of molecular evolution are sometimes characterized as theories about drift alone, where drift is described solely as an outcome, rather than a process. We argue, however, that both selection and drift, as causal processes, are integral parts of both theories. However, the nearly neutral theory explicitly recognizes alleles and/or molecular substitutions that, while engaging in weakly selected causal processes, exhibit outcomes thought to be characteristic of random drift. A narrow focus on outcomes obscures the (...)
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  3. Joanna Masel (2012). Rethinking Hardy–Weinberg and Genetic Drift in Undergraduate Biology. Bioessays 34 (8):701-710.
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  4. Mohan Matthen (2010). What is Drift? A Response to Millstein, Skipper, and Dietrich. Philosophy and Theory in Biology 2 (20130604).
    The statistical interpretation of the Theory of Natural Selection claims that natural selection and drift are statistical features of mathematical aggregates of individual-level events. Natural selection and drift are not themselves causes. The statistical interpretation is motivated by a metaphysical conception of individual priority. Recently, Millstein, Skipper, and Dietrich (2009) have argued (a) that natural selection and drift are physical processes, and (b) that the statistical interpretation rests on a misconception of the role of mathematics in biology. Both theses are (...)
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  5. Mohan Matthen (2009). Drift and “Statistically Abstractive Explanation”. Philosophy of Science 76 (4):464-487.
    A hitherto neglected form of explanation is explored, especially its role in population genetics. “Statistically abstractive explanation” (SA explanation) mandates the suppression of factors probabilistically relevant to an explanandum when these factors are extraneous to the theoretical project being pursued. When these factors are suppressed, the explanandum is rendered uncertain. But this uncertainty traces to the theoretically constrained character of SA explanation, not to any real indeterminacy. Random genetic drift is an artifact of such uncertainty, and it is therefore wrong (...)
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  6. Roberta L. Millstein (2009). Concepts of Drift and Selection in “the Great Snail Debate” of the 1950s and Early 1960s. In Joe Cain & Michael Ruse (eds.), Descended from Darwin: Insights into the History of Evolutionary Studies, 1900-1970. American Philosophical Society.
    Recently, much philosophical discussion has centered on the best way to characterize the concepts of random drift and natural selection, and, in particular, whether selection and drift can be conceptually distinguished (Beatty, 1984; Brandon, 2005; Hodge, 1983, 1987; Millstein, 2002, 2005; Pfeifer, 2005; Shanahan, 1992; Stephens, 2004). These authors all contend, to a greater or lesser degree, that their concepts make sense of biological practice. So it should be instructive to see how the concepts of drift and selection were distinguished (...)
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  7. Roberta L. Millstein (2008). Distinguishing Drift and Selection Empirically: &Quot;the Great Snail Debate" of the 1950s. Journal of the History of Biology 41 (2):339 - 367.
    Biologists and philosophers have been extremely pessimistic about the possibility of demonstrating random drift in nature, particularly when it comes to distinguishing random drift from natural selection. However, examination of a historical case-Maxime Lamotte's study of natural populations of the land snail, Cepaea nemoralis in the 1950s - shows that while some pessimism is warranted, it has been overstated. Indeed, by describing a unique signature for drift and showing that this signature obtained in the populations under study, Lamotte was able (...)
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  8. Roberta L. Millstein (2005). Selection Vs. Drift: A Response to Brandon's Reply. Biology and Philosophy 20 (1):171-175.
    I respond to Brandon's (2005) criticisms of my earlier (2002) essay. I argue that (1) biologists are inconsistent in their use of the terms 'selection' and 'drift' -- vacillating between 'process' and 'outcome' -- but that the process-oriented definitions I defend make better sense of the neutralist/selectionist debate; (2) Brandon's purported demonstration that there is no qualitative difference between drift and selection as processes begs the question against my account; and (3) biologists (e.g., Kimura) have argued for genuinely neutral variants. (...)
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  9. Roberta L. Millstein (2002). Are Random Drift and Natural Selection Conceptually Distinct? Biology and Philosophy 17 (1):33-53.
    The latter half of the twentieth century has been marked by debates in evolutionary biology over the relative significance of natural selection and random drift: the so-called “neutralist/selectionist” debates. Yet John Beatty has argued that it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish the concept of random drift from the concept of natural selection, a claim that has been accepted by many philosophers of biology. If this claim is correct, then the neutralist/selectionist debates seem at best futile, and at worst, (...)
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  10. Roberta L. Millstein (2000). Chance and Macroevolution. Philosophy of Science 67 (4):603-624.
    When philosophers of physics explore the nature of chance, they usually look to quantum mechanics. When philosophers of biology explore the nature of chance, they usually look to microevolutionary phenomena, such as mutation or random drift. What has been largely overlooked is the role of chance in macroevolution. The stochastic models of paleobiology employ conceptions of chance that are similar to those at the microevolutionary level, yet different from the conceptions of chance often associated with quantum mechanics and Laplacean determinism.
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  11. Roberta L. Millstein (1996). Random Drift and the Omniscient Viewpoint. Philosophy of Science 63 (3):S10-S18.
    Alexander Rosenberg (1994) claims that the omniscient viewpoint of the evolutionary process would have no need for the concept of random drift. However, his argument fails to take into account all of the processes which are considered to be instances of random drift. A consideration of these processes shows that random drift is not eliminable even given a position of omniscience. Furthermore, Rosenberg must take these processes into account in order to support his claims that evolution is deterministic and that (...)
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  12. Roberta L. Millstein, Robert A. Skipper Jr & Michael R. Dietrich (2009). (Mis)Interpreting Mathematical Models: Drift as a Physical Process. Philosophy and Theory in Biology 1 (20130604):e002.
    Recently, a number of philosophers of biology (e.g., Matthen and Ariew 2002; Walsh, Lewens, and Ariew 2002; Pigliucci and Kaplan 2006; Walsh 2007) have endorsed views about random drift that, we will argue, rest on an implicit assumption that the meaning of concepts such as drift can be understood through an examination of the mathematical models in which drift appears. They also seem to implicitly assume that ontological questions about the causality (or lack thereof) of terms appearing in the models (...)
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  13. Roberta L. Millstein & Robert A. Skipper (2007). Population Genetics. In David L. Hull & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge University Press.
    Population genetics attempts to measure the influence of the causes of evolution, viz., mutation, migration, natural selection, and random genetic drift, by understanding the way those causes change the genetics of populations. But how does it accomplish this goal? After a short introduction, we begin in section (2) with a brief historical outline of the origins of population genetics. In section (3), we sketch the model theoretic structure of population genetics, providing the flavor of the ways in which population genetics (...)
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  14. Charles H. Pence, It's Okay to Call Genetic Drift a “Force”.
    One hotly debated philosophical question in the analysis of evolutionary theory concerns whether or not evolution and the various factors which constitute it (selection, drift, mutation, and so on) may profitably be considered to be “forces” in the traditional, Newtonian sense. Several compelling arguments assert that the force picture is incoherent, due to the peculiar nature of genetic drift. I consider two of those arguments here – that drift lacks a predictable direction, and that drift is constitutive of evolutionary systems (...)
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  15. Jessica Pfeifer (2005). Why Selection and Drift Might Be Distinct. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1135-1145.
    In this paper, it is argued that selection and drift might be distinct. This contradicts recent arguments by Brandon (forthcoming) and Matthen and Ariew (2002) that such a distinction “violates sound probabilistic thinking” (Matthen and Ariew 2002, 62). While their arguments might be valid under certain assumptions, they overlook a possible way to make sense of the distinction. Whether this distinction makes sense, I argue, depends on the source of probabilities in natural selection. In particular, if the probabilities used in (...)
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  16. Massimo Pigliucci (2007). Post-Genomic Musings. [REVIEW] Science 317:1172-1173.
    Everyone in biology keeps predicting that the next few years will bring answers to some of the major open questions in evolutionary biology, but there seems to be disagreement on what, exactly, those questions are. Enthusiasts of the various “-omics” (genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, and even phenomics) believe, as Michael Lynch puts it in the final chapter of The Origins of Genome Architecture, that “we can be confident of two things: the basic theoretical machinery for understanding the evolutionary process is (...)
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  17. Anya Plutynski (2007). Drift: A Historical and Conceptual Overview. Biological Theory 2 (2):156-167.
    There are several different ways in which chance affects evolutionary change. That all of these processes are called “random genetic drift” is in part a due to common elements across these different processes, but is also a product of historical borrowing of models and language across different levels of organization in the biological hierarchy. A history of the concept of drift will reveal the variety of contexts in which drift has played an explanatory role in biology, and will shed light (...)
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  18. Marco Solinas (2012). L'impronta dell'inutilità. Dalla teleologia di Aristotele alle genealogie di Darwin. ETS.
    The book aims to offer a contribution to the historiographical and conceptual reconfiguration of the evolutionary revolution in the light of the centuries-old tenets of the Aristotelian biological tradition. Darwin’s breakthrough constitutes a thorough overturning of the fixist, essentialist and teleological framework created by Aristotle, a framework still dominant in the 17th Century world of Harvey and Ray, as well as Galileo, and then hegemonic until Linnaeus and Cuvier. This change is exemplified in the morphological analysis of useless parts, such (...)
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  19. Sean A. Valles (2010). The Mystery of the Mystery of Common Genetic Diseases. Biology and Philosophy 25 (2):183-201.
    Common monogenic genetic diseases, ones that have unexpectedly high frequencies in certain populations, have attracted a great number of conflicting evolutionary explanations. This paper will attempt to explain the mystery of why two particularly extensively studied common genetic diseases, Tay Sachs disease and cystic fibrosis, remain evolutionary mysteries despite decades of research. I review the most commonly cited evolutionary processes used to explain common genetic diseases: reproductive compensation, random genetic drift (in the context of founder effect), and especially heterozygote advantage. (...)
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  20. Denis M. Walsh (2007). The Pomp of Superfluous Causes: The Interpretation of Evolutionary Theory. Philosophy of Science 74 (3):281-303.
    There are two competing interpretations of the modern synthesis theory of evolution: the dynamical (also know as ‘traditional’) and the statistical. The dynamical interpretation maintains that explanations offered under the auspices of the modern synthesis theory articulate the causes of evolution. It interprets selection and drift as causes of population change. The statistical interpretation holds that modern synthesis explanations merely cite the statistical structure of populations. This paper offers a defense of statisticalism. It argues that a change in trait frequencies (...)
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  21. Denis M. Walsh, Andre Ariew & Tim Lewens (2002). The Trials of Life: Natural Selection and Random Drift. Philosophy of Science 69 (3):452-473.
    We distinguish dynamical and statistical interpretations of evolutionary theory. We argue that only the statistical interpretation preserves the presumed relation between natural selection and drift. On these grounds we claim that the dynamical conception of evolutionary theory as a theory of forces is mistaken. Selection and drift are not forces. Nor do selection and drift explanations appeal to the (sub-population-level) causes of population level change. Instead they explain by appeal to the statistical structure of populations. We briefly discuss the implications (...)
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