How Do Natural Selection and Random Drift Interact?

Philosophy of Science 74 (5):666-679 (2007)
One controversy about the existence of so called evolutionary forces such as natural selection and random genetic drift concerns the sense in which such “forces” can be said to interact. In this paper I explain how natural selection and random drift can interact. In particular, I show how population-level probabilities can be derived from individual-level probabilities, and explain the sense in which natural selection and drift are embodied in these population-level probabilities. I argue that whatever causal character the individual-level probabilities have is then shared by the population-level probabilities, and that natural selection and random drift then have that same causal character. Moreover, natural selection and drift can then be viewed as two aspects of probability distributions over frequencies in populations of organisms. My characterization of population-level probabilities is largely neutral about what interpretation of probability is required, allowing my approach to support various positions on biological probabilities, including those which give biological probabilities one or another sort of causal character. ‡This paper has benefited from feedback on and discussions of this and earlier work. I want to thank André Ariew, Matt Barker, Lindley Darden, Patrick Forber, Nancy Hall, Mohan Matthen, Samir Okasha, Jeremy Pober, Robert Richardson, Alex Rosenberg, Eric Seidel, Denis Walsh, and Bill Wimsatt. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HB 414A, 900 13th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294-1260; e-mail:
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/525612
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 29 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Denis M. Walsh (2013). Descriptions and Models: Some Responses to Abrams. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):302-308.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

42 ( #80,232 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

12 ( #56,985 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.