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  1. Unifying Statistically Autonomous and Mathematical Explanations.Travis L. Holmes - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (3):1-22.
    A subarea of the debate over the nature of evolutionary theory addresses what the nature of the explanations yielded by evolutionary theory are. The statisticalist line is that the general principles of evolutionary theory are not only amenable to a mathematical interpretation but that they need not invoke causes to furnish explanations. Causalists object that construction of these general principles involves crucial causal assumptions. A recent view claims that some biological explanations are statistically autonomous explanations whereby phenomena are accounted for (...)
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  • Drift as constitutive: conclusions from a formal reconstruction of population genetics.Ariel Jonathan Roffé - 2019 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (4):1-24.
    This article elaborates on McShea and Brandon’s idea that drift is unlike the rest of the evolutionary factors because it is constitutive rather than imposed on the evolutionary process. I show that the way they spelled out this idea renders it inadequate and is the reason why it received some objections. I propose a different way in which their point could be understood, that rests on two general distinctions. The first is a distinction between the underlying mathematical apparatus used to (...)
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  • Drift as Constitutive: Conclusions From a Formal Reconstruction of Population Genetics.Ariel Jonathan Roffé - 2019 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (4):55.
    This article elaborates on McShea and Brandon’s idea that drift is unlike the rest of the evolutionary factors because it is constitutive rather than imposed on the evolutionary process. I show that the way they spelled out this idea renders it inadequate and is the reason why it received some objections. I propose a different way in which their point could be understood, that rests on two general distinctions. The first is a distinction between the underlying mathematical apparatus used to (...)
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  • Genetic Drift as a Directional Factor: Biasing Effects and a Priori Predictions.Ariel Jonathan Roffé - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (4):535-558.
    The adequacy of Elliott Sober’s analogy between classical mechanics and evolutionary theory—according to which both theories explain via a zero-force law and a set of forces that alter the zero-force state—has been criticized from various points of view. I focus here on McShea and Brandon’s claim that drift shouldn’t be considered a force because it is not directional. I argue that there are a number of different theses that could be meant by this, and show that one of those theses—the (...)
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  • The meta-theoretical status of ZFEL.Ariel Jonathan Roffé & Santiago Ginnobili - 2019 - Humanities Journal of Valparaiso 14:57-73.
    In a recent book, McShea and Brandon argue that the observed diversity and complexity of life are explainable by a principle they call the “zero-force evolutionary law” or “ZFEL”. Although this principle would be implicit in many explanations given by biologists, it would have never been made explicit. Assuming that this idea is interesting, and that the authors are right, we will discuss the metatheoretical way in which they present said principle, as being a part of probability theory. This allows (...)
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  • Mathematical Explanations in Evolutionary Biology or Naturalism? A Challenge for the Statisticalist.Fabio Sterpetti - forthcoming - Foundations of Science:1-33.
    This article presents a challenge that those philosophers who deny the causal interpretation of explanations provided by population genetics might have to address. Indeed, some philosophers, known as statisticalists, claim that the concept of natural selection is statistical in character and cannot be construed in causal terms. On the contrary, other philosophers, known as causalists, argue against the statistical view and support the causal interpretation of natural selection. The problem I am concerned with here arises for the statisticalists because the (...)
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  • Evolution is About Populations, But Its Causes are About Individuals.Pierrick Bourrat - 2019 - Biological Theory 14 (4):254-266.
    There is a tension between, on the one hand, the view that natural selection refers to individual-level causes, and on the other hand, the view that it refers to a population-level cause. In this article, I make the case for the individual-level cause view. I respond to recent claims made by McLoone that the individual-level cause view is inconsistent. I show that if one were to follow his arguments, any causal claim in any context would have to be regarded as (...)
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  • Constitutive Elements in Science Beyond Physics: The Case of the Hardy–Weinberg Principle.Michele Luchetti - 2018 - Synthese (Suppl 14):3437-3461.
    In this paper, I present a new framework supporting the claim that some elements in science play a constitutive function, with the aim of overcoming some limitations of Friedman's (2001) account. More precisely, I focus on what I consider to be the gradualism implicit in Friedman's interpretation of the constitutive a priori, that is, the fact that it seems to allow for degrees of 'constitutivity'. I tease out such gradualism by showing that the constitutive character Friedman aims to track can (...)
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  • The Conflation of "Chance" in Evolution.Charles H. Pence - manuscript
    Discussions of “chance” and related concepts are found throughout philosophical work on evolutionary theory. By drawing attention to three very commonly-recognized distinctions, I separate four independent concepts falling under the broad heading of “chance”: randomness, epistemic unpredictability, causal indeterminism, and probabilistic causal processes. Far from a merely semantic distinction, however, it is demonstrated that conflation of these obviously distinct notions has an important bearing on debates at the core of evolutionary theory, particularly the debate over the interpretation of fitness, natural (...)
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  • Four Pillars of Statisticalism.Denis M. Walsh, André Ariew & Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (1):1-18.
    Over the past fifteen years there has been a considerable amount of debate concerning what theoretical population dynamic models tell us about the nature of natural selection and drift. On the causal interpretation, these models describe the causes of population change. On the statistical interpretation, the models of population dynamics models specify statistical parameters that explain, predict, and quantify changes in population structure, without identifying the causes of those changes. Selection and drift are part of a statistical description of population (...)
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  • Missing Concepts in Natural Selection Theory Reconstructions.Santiago Ginnobili - 2016 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 38 (3):1-33.
    The concept of fitness has generated a lot of discussion in philosophy of biology. There is, however, relative agreement about the need to distinguish at least two uses of the term: ecological fitness on the one hand, and population genetics fitness on the other. The goal of this paper is to give an explication of the concept of ecological fitness by providing a reconstruction of the theory of natural selection in which this concept was framed, that is, based on the (...)
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  • Variance, Invariance and Statistical Explanation.D. M. Walsh - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (S3):469-489.
    The most compelling extant accounts of explanation casts all explanations as causal. Yet there are sciences, theoretical population biology in particular, that explain their phenomena by appeal to statistical, non-causal properties of ensembles. I develop a generalised account of explanation. An explanation serves two functions: metaphysical and cognitive. The metaphysical function is discharged by identifying a counterfactually robust invariance relation between explanans event and explanandum. The cognitive function is discharged by providing an appropriate description of this relation. I offer examples (...)
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  • Replication Without Replicators.Bence Nanay - 2011 - Synthese 179 (3):455-477.
    According to a once influential view of selection, it consists of repeated cycles of replication and interaction. It has been argued that this view is wrong: replication is not necessary for evolution by natural selection. I analyze the nine most influential arguments for this claim and defend the replication–interaction conception of selection against these objections. In order to do so, however, the replication–interaction conception of selection needs to be modified significantly. My proposal is that replication is not the copying of (...)
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  • Population Thinking as Trope Nominalism.Bence Nanay - 2010 - Synthese 177 (1):91 - 109.
    The concept of population thinking was introduced by Ernst Mayr as the right way of thinking about the biological domain, but it is difficult to find an interpretation of this notion that is both unproblematic and does the theoretical work it was intended to do. I argue that, properly conceived, Mayr’s population thinking is a version of trope nominalism: the view that biological property-types do not exist or at least they play no explanatory role. Further, although population thinking has been (...)
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  • I: The Meaning of the First Person Term.José Bermúdez - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):634-637.
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  • Evolution and the Levels of Selection.Patrick Forber - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):626-630.
  • Two-Dimensional Semantics.Peter Sutton - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):637-639.
  • Natural Selection: A Case for the Counterfactual Approach. [REVIEW]Philippe Huneman - 2012 - Erkenntnis 76 (2):171-194.
    This paper investigates the conception of causation required in order to make sense of natural selection as a causal explanation of changes in traits or allele frequencies. It claims that under a counterfactual account of causation, natural selection is constituted by the causal relevance of traits and alleles to the variation in traits and alleles frequencies. The “statisticalist” view of selection (Walsh, Matthen, Ariew, Lewens) has shown that natural selection is not a cause superadded to the causal interactions between individual (...)
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  • Natural Selection and Drift as Individual-Level Causes of Evolution.Pierrick Bourrat - 2018 - Acta Biotheoretica 66 (3):159-176.
    In this paper I critically evaluate Reisman and Forber’s :1113–1123, 2005) arguments that drift and natural selection are population-level causes of evolution based on what they call the manipulation condition. Although I agree that this condition is an important step for identifying causes for evolutionary change, it is insufficient. Following Woodward, I argue that the invariance of a relationship is another crucial parameter to take into consideration for causal explanations. Starting from Reisman and Forber’s example on drift and after having (...)
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  • Sources of Evolutionary Contingency: Chance Variation and Genetic Drift.T. Y. William Wong - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (4):1-33.
    Contingency-theorists have gestured to a series of phenomena such as random mutations or rare Armageddon-like events as that which accounts for evolutionary contingency. These phenomena constitute a class, which may be aptly called the ‘sources of contingency’. In this paper, I offer a probabilistic conception of what it is to be a source of contingency and then examine two major candidates: chance variation and genetic drift, both of which have historically been taken to be ‘chancy’ in a number of different (...)
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  • Informative Ecological Models Without Ecological Forces.Justin Donhauser - 2020 - Synthese 197 (6):2721-2743.
    Sagoff (2016) criticizes widely used “theoretical” methods in ecology; arguing that those methods employ models that rely on problematic metaphysical assumptions and are therefore uninformative and useless for practical decision-making. In this paper, I show that Sagoff misconstrues how such model-based methods work in practice, that the main threads of his argument are problematic, and that his substantive conclusions are consequently unfounded. Along the way, I illuminate several ways the model-based inferential methods he criticizes can be, and have been, usefully (...)
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  • Drift: A Historical and Conceptual Overview.Anya Plutynski - 2007 - Biological Theory 2 (2):156-167.
    There are several different ways in which chance affects evolutionary change. That all of these processes are called “random genetic drift” is in part a due to common elements across these different processes, but is also a product of historical borrowing of models and language across different levels of organization in the biological hierarchy. A history of the concept of drift will reveal the variety of contexts in which drift has played an explanatory role in biology, and will shed light (...)
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  • Spirit.[author unknown] - forthcoming - Latest Results.
    Many religions and religious philosophies say that ultimate reality is a kind of primal energy. This energy is often described as a vital power animating living things, as a spiritual force directing the organization of matter, or as a divine creative power which generates all things. By refuting older conceptions of primal energy, modern science opens the door to new and more precise conceptions. Primal energy is referred to here as ‘spirit’. But spirit is a natural power. A naturalistic theory (...)
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  • Explaining Drift From a Deterministic Setting.Pierrick Bourrat - 2017 - Biological Theory 12 (1):27-38.
    Drift is often characterized in statistical terms. Yet such a purely statistical characterization is ambiguous for it can accept multiple physical interpretations. Because of this ambiguity it is important to distinguish what sorts of processes can lead to this statistical phenomenon. After presenting a physical interpretation of drift originating from the most popular interpretation of fitness, namely the propensity interpretation, I propose a different one starting from an analysis of the concept of drift made by Godfrey-Smith. Further on, I show (...)
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  • Selection in a Complex World: Deriving Causality From Stable Equilibrium.Hugh Desmond - 2018 - Erkenntnis 83 (2):265-286.
    It is an ongoing controversy whether natural selection is a cause of population change, or a mere statistical description of how individual births and deaths accumulate. In this paper I restate the problem in terms of the reference class problem, and propose how the structure of stable equilibrium can provide a solution in continuity with biological practice. Insofar natural selection can be understood as a tendency towards equilibrium, key statisticalist criticisms are avoided. Further, in a modification of the Newtonian-force analogy, (...)
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  • Drift Beyond Wright–Fisher.Hayley Clatterbuck - 2015 - Synthese 192 (11):3487-3507.
    Several recent arguments by philosophers of biology have challenged the traditional view that evolutionary factors, such as drift and selection, are genuine causes of evolutionary outcomes. In the case of drift, advocates of the statistical theory argue that drift is merely the sampling error inherent in the other stochastic processes of evolution and thus denotes a mathematical, rather than causal, feature of populations. This debate has largely centered around one particular model of drift, the Wright–Fisher model, and this has contributed (...)
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  • Evolutionary Forces and the Hardy–Weinberg Equilibrium.Eugene Earnshaw - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (3):423-437.
    The Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium has been argued by Sober, Stephens and others to represent the zero-force state for evolutionary biology understood as a theory of forces. I investigate what it means for a model to involve forces, developing an explicit account by defining what the zero-force state is in a general theoretical context. I use this account to show that Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium is not the zero-force state in biology even in the contexts in which it applies, and argue based on this (...)
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  • Inscrutability and the Opacity of Natural Selection and Random Genetic Drift: Distinguishing the Epistemic and Metaphysical Aspects.Philippe Huneman - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (S3):491-518.
    ‘Statisticalists’ argue that the individual interactions of organisms taken together constitute natural selection. On this view, natural selection is an aggregated effect of interactions rather than some added cause acting on populations. The statisticalists’ view entails that natural selection and drift are indistinguishable aggregated effects of interactions, so that it becomes impossible to make a difference between them. The present paper attempts to make sense of the difference between selection and drift, given the main insights of statisticalism; basically, it will (...)
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  • Scientific Coordination Beyond the A Priori: A Three-Dimensional Account of Constitutive Elements in Scientific Practice.Michele Luchetti - 2020 - Dissertation, Central European University
    In this dissertation, I present a novel account of the components that have a peculiar epistemic role in our scientific inquiries, since they contribute to establishing a form of coordination. The issue of coordination is a classic epistemic problem concerning how we justify our use of abstract conceptual tools to represent concrete phenomena. For instance, how could we get to represent universal gravitation as a mathematical formula or temperature by means of a numerical scale? This problem is particularly pressing when (...)
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  • How Do Natural Selection and Random Drift Interact?Marshall Abrams - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):666-679.
    One controversy about the existence of so called evolutionary forces such as natural selection and random genetic drift concerns the sense in which such “forces” can be said to interact. In this paper I explain how natural selection and random drift can interact. In particular, I show how population-level probabilities can be derived from individual-level probabilities, and explain the sense in which natural selection and drift are embodied in these population-level probabilities. I argue that whatever causal character the individual-level probabilities (...)
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  • Of Mice and Metaphysics: Natural Selection and Realized Population‐Level Properties.Matthew C. Haug - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (4):431-451.
    In this paper, I answer a fundamental question facing any view according to which natural selection is a population‐level causal process—namely, how is the causal process of natural selection related to, yet not preempted by, causal processes that occur at the level of individual organisms? Without an answer to this grounding question, the population‐level causal view appears unstable—collapsing into either an individual‐level causal interpretation or the claim that selection is a purely formal, statistical phenomenon. I argue that a causal account (...)
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  • The Pomp of Superfluous Causes: The Interpretation of Evolutionary Theory.Denis M. Walsh - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (3):281-303.
    There are two competing interpretations of the modern synthesis theory of evolution: the dynamical (also know as ‘traditional’) and the statistical. The dynamical interpretation maintains that explanations offered under the auspices of the modern synthesis theory articulate the causes of evolution. It interprets selection and drift as causes of population change. The statistical interpretation holds that modern synthesis explanations merely cite the statistical structure of populations. This paper offers a defense of statisticalism. It argues that a change in trait frequencies (...)
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  • Forces and Causes in Evolutionary Theory.Christopher Stephens - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (5):716-727.
    The traditional view of evolutionary theory asserts that we can usefully understand natural selection, drift, mutation, migration, and the system of mating as forces that cause evolutionary change. Recently, Denis Walsh and Robert Brandon have objected to this view. Walsh argues that the traditional view faces a fatal dilemma and that the force analogy must be rejected altogether. Brandon accepts the force analogy but argues that drift, rather than the Hardy-Weinberg law, is the best candidate for a zero-force law. Here (...)
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  • Wittgenstein on the Arbitrariness of Grammar. [REVIEW]Cyrus Panjvani - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):623-626.
    WITTGENSTEIN ON THE ARBITRARINESS OF GRAMMAR Michael N. Forster What is the nature of a conceptual scheme? Are there alternative conceptual schemes?
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  • Intricate Ethics.Elinor Mason - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):621-623.
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  • Appearances of the Good: An Essay on the Nature of Practical Reason.Talbot Brewer - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):618-620.
  • Pierre Gassendi and the Birth of Early Modern Philosophy. [REVIEW]Larry M. Jorgensen - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):615-617.
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  • Explaining the Cosmos: The Ionian Tradition of Scientific Philosophy.Gábor Betegh - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):607-610.
  • Plato's Natural Philosophy: A Study of the Timaeus-Critias. [REVIEW]Catherine Osborne - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (4):610-614.
  • Arbitrariness and Causation in Classical Population Genetics.Peter Gildenhuys - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (3):429-444.
    I criticize some arguments against the causal interpretability of population genetics put forward by Denis Walsh ([2007], [2010]). In particular, I seek to undermine the contention that population genetics exhibits frame of reference relativity or subjectivity with respect to its formal representations. I also show that classical population genetics does not fall foul of some criteria for causal representation put forward by James Woodward ([2003]), although those criteria do undermine some causalist stances. 1 Introduction2 Modularity3 The Crucially Important Point4 The (...)
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  • The Natures of Selection.Tim Lewens - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (2):313-333.
    Elliott Sober and his defenders think of selection, drift, mutation, and migration as distinct evolutionary forces. This paper exposes an ambiguity in Sober's account of the force of selection: sometimes he appears to equate the force of selection with variation in fitness, sometimes with ‘selection for properties’. Sober's own account of fitness as a property analogous to life-expectancy shows how the two conceptions come apart. Cases where there is selection against variance in offspring number also show that selection and drift (...)
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  • Drift and Evolutionary Forces: Scrutinizing the Newtonian Analogy.Víctor J. Luque - 2016 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 31 (3):397-410.
    This article analyzes the view of evolutionary theory as a theory of forces. The analogy with Newtonian mechanics has been challenged due to the alleged mismatch between drift and the other evolutionary forces. Since genetic drift has no direction several authors tried to protect its status as a force: denying its lack of directionality, extending the notion of force and looking for a force in physics which also lacks of direction. I analyse these approaches, and although this strategy finally succeeds, (...)
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  • Causal Foundations of Evolutionary Genetics.Jun Otsuka - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (1):247-269.
    The causal nature of evolution is one of the central topics in the philosophy of biology. The issue concerns whether equations used in evolutionary genetics point to some causal processes or purely phenomenological patterns. To address this question the present article builds well-defined causal models that underlie standard equations in evolutionary genetics. These models are based on minimal and biologically plausible hypotheses about selection and reproduction, and generate statistics to predict evolutionary changes. The causal reconstruction of the evolutionary principles shows (...)
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  • Population Pluralism and Natural Selection.Jacob Stegenga - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-29.
    I defend a radical interpretation of biological populations—what I call population pluralism—which holds that there are many ways that a particular grouping of individuals can be related such that the grouping satisfies the conditions necessary for those individuals to evolve together. More constraining accounts of biological populations face empirical counter-examples and conceptual difficulties. One of the most intuitive and frequently employed conditions, causal connectivity—itself beset with numerous difficulties—is best construed by considering the relevant causal relations as ‘thick’ causal concepts. I (...)
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  • Natural Selection as a Population-Level Causal Process.Roberta L. Millstein - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (4):627-653.
    Recent discussions in the philosophy of biology have brought into question some fundamental assumptions regarding evolutionary processes, natural selection in particular. Some authors argue that natural selection is nothing but a population-level, statistical consequence of lower-level events (Matthen and Ariew [2002]; Walsh et al. [2002]). On this view, natural selection itself does not involve forces. Other authors reject this purely statistical, population-level account for an individual-level, causal account of natural selection (Bouchard and Rosenberg [2004]). I argue that each of these (...)
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  • Evolution Beyond Biology: Examining the Evolutionary Economics of Nelson and Winter.Eugene Earnshaw - 2011 - Biological Theory 6 (4):301-310.
    Nelson and Winter’s An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982) was the foundational work of what has become the thriving sub-discipline of evolutionary economics. In attempting to develop an alternative to neoclassical economics, the authors looked to borrow basic ideas from biology, in particular a concept of economic “natural selection.” However, the evolutionary models they construct in their seminal work are in many respects quite different from the models of evolutionary biology. There is no reproduction in any usual sense, “mutation” (...)
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  • Natural Selection and the Reference Grain Problem.Pierrick Bourrat - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 80:1-8.
  • Current Perspectives in Philosophy of Biology.Joaquin Suarez Ruiz & Rodrigo A. Lopez Orellana - 2019 - Humanities Journal of Valparaiso 14:7-426.
    Current Perspectives in Philosophy of Biology.
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  • The Origins of the Stochastic Theory of Population Genetics: The Wright-Fisher Model.Yoichi Ishida & Alirio Rosales - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 79:101226.
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  • Probabilistic Causation and the Explanatory Role of Natural Selection.Pablo Razeto-Barry & Ramiro Frick - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (3):344-355.
    The explanatory role of natural selection is one of the long-term debates in evolutionary biology. Nevertheless, the consensus has been slippery because conceptual confusions and the absence of a unified, formal causal model that integrates different explanatory scopes of natural selection. In this study we attempt to examine two questions: (i) What can the theory of natural selection explain? and (ii) Is there a causal or explanatory model that integrates all natural selection explananda? For the first question, we argue that (...)
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