The evolution of theoretically useful traits

Biology and Philosophy 13 (4):529-540 (1998)
The purely theoretical notion of fitness or optimality that is employed for instance in optimization theory has come under attack from those who think that only a more historically based notion of fitness could have a central role in evolutionary explanation. They argue that the key notion is proven usefulness rather than theoretical usefulness. This paper articulates a notion of theoretical usefulness and defends its role in functional evolutionary explanations.
Keywords adaptation  optimization  fitness  functional  historical  evolutionary explanation  Wright  Millikan
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