Explanatory unification and the early synthesis

Abstract
The object of this paper is to reply to Morrison's ([2000]) claim that while ‘structural unity’ was achieved at the level of the mathematical models of population genetics in the early synthesis, there was explanatory disunity. I argue to the contrary, that the early synthesis effected by the founders of theoretical population genetics was unifying and explanatory both. Defending this requires a reconsideration of Morrison's notion of explanation. In Morrison's view, all and only answers to ‘why’ questions which include the ‘cause or mechanism’ for some phenomenon count as explanatory. In my view, mathematical demonstrations that answer ‘how possibly’ and ‘why necessarily’ questions may also count as explanatory. The authors of the synthesis explained how evolution was possible on a Mendelian system of inheritance, answered skepticism about the sufficiency of selection, and thus explained why and how a Darwinian research program was warranted. While today we take many of these claims as obvious, they required argument, and part of the explanatory work of the formal sciences is providing such arguments. Surely, Fisher and Wright had competing views as to the optimal means of generating adaptation. Nevertheless, they had common opponents and a common unifying and explanatory goal that their mathematical demonstrations served. Introduction: Morrison's challenge Fisher v. Wright revisited The early synthesis Conclusion: unification and explanation reconciled.
Keywords unification  explanation  modern synthesis
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 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: 9,357
External links
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA

    No references found.

    Citations of this work BETA
    Patrick Forber (2010). Confirmation and Explaining How Possible. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (1):32-40.
    Similar books and articles
    Analytics

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index

    2009-01-28

    Total downloads

    14 ( #95,238 of 1,088,810 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    4 ( #24,213 of 1,088,810 )

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature


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