Fitness and Propensity’s Annulment?

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

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Marshall Abrams
University of Alabama, Birmingham

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Philosophical Papers, Volume II.David Lewis - 1986 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.

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