Newtonian forces and evolutionary biology: A problem and solution for extending the force interpretation

Philosophy of Science 76 (5):774-783 (2009)
There has recently been a renewed interest in the “force” interpretation of evolutionary biology. In this article, I present the general structure of the arguments for the force interpretation and identify a problem in its overly permissive conditions for being a Newtonian force. I then attempt a solution that (1) helps to illuminate the difference between forces and other types of causes and (2) makes room for random genetic drift as a force. In particular, I argue that forces are not different in kind from other types of causes but rather that forces are situated on a continuum of causes distinguished by their unifying power. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 5185 Helen C. White Hall, Madison, WI 53706; e‐mail:
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DOI 10.1086/605799
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D. M. Walsh (2000). Chasing Shadows: Natural Selection and Adaptation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 31 (1):135-53.

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