Fitness and Propensity’s Annulment?

Biology and Philosophy 22 (1):115-130 (2007)

Authors
Marshall Abrams
University of Alabama, Birmingham
Abstract
  Recent debate on the nature of probabilities in evolutionary biology has focused largely on the propensity interpretation of fitness (PIF), which defines fitness in terms of a conception of probability known as “propensity”. However, proponents of this conception of fitness have misconceived the role of probability in the constitution of fitness. First, discussions of probability and fitness have almost always focused on organism effect probability, the probability that an organism and its environment cause effects. I argue that much of the probability relevant to fitness must be organism circumstance probability, the probability that an organism encounters particular, detailed circumstances within an environment, circumstances which are not the organism’s effects. Second, I argue in favor of the view that organism effect propensities either don’t exist or are not part of the basis of fitness, because they usually have values close to 0 or 1. More generally, I try to show that it is possible to develop a clearer conception of the role of probability in biological processes than earlier discussions have allowed
Keywords Philosophy   Evolutionary Biology   Philosophy of Biology
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-005-9010-x
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References found in this work BETA

The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Philosophical Papers Vol. II.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
The Matter of Chance.D. H. Mellor - 2004 - Cambridge University Press.
Philosophy of Biology.Sergio Sismondo & Elliott Sober - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (1):164.

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Citations of this work BETA

Mechanistic Probability.Marshall Abrams - 2012 - Synthese 187 (2):343-375.
How Do Natural Selection and Random Drift Interact?Marshall Abrams - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):666-679.
The Unity of Fitness.Marshall Abrams - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (5):750-761.
Probability in Biology: The Case of Fitness.Roberta L. Millstein - 2016 - In A. Hájek & C. R. Hitchcock (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Probability and Philosophy. Oxford University Press. pp. 601-622.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.Susan K. Mills & John H. Beatty - 1979 - Philosophy of Science 46 (2):263-286.
The Unity of Fitness.Marshall Abrams - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (5):750-761.
Fitness, Probability and the Principles of Natural Selection.Frédéric Bouchard & Alex Rosenberg - 2004 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (4):693-712.
A Defense of Propensity Interpretations of Fitness.Robert C. Richardson & Richard M. Burian - 1992 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:349 - 362.

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