David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (3):595-609 (2005)
The object of this paper is to reply to Morrison's () 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.
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