Can there be stochastic evolutionary causes?

Philosophy of Science 74 (5):616-627 (2007)
Do evolutionary processes such as selection and random drift cause evolutionary change, or are they merely convenient ways of describing or summarizing it? Philosophers have lined up on both sides of this question. One recent defense (Reisman and Forber 2005) of the causal status of selection and drift appeals to a manipulability theory of causation. Yet, even if one accepts manipulability, there are still reasons to doubt that genetic drift, in particular, is genuinely causal. We will address two challenges to treating drift as causal within a manipulation framework. We will argue that both challenges ultimately fail, but that they raise interesting and subtle issues about the nature of causation and the differences between selection and drift. ‡Thanks to audiences at the ‘PBDB1' Conference and the 2006 PSA Meeting for valuable feedback. †To contact the authors, please write to: Patrick Forber, Tufts University, Philosophy Department, Miner Hall, Medford, MA 02155; e-mail:
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    John Beatty (1984). Chance and Natural Selection. Philosophy of Science 51 (2):183-211.
    DM Hausman & J. Woodward (1999). Independence, Invariance and the Causal Markov Condition. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (4):521-583.

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