How Do Natural Selection and Random Drift Interact?

Philosophy of Science 74 (5):666-679 (2007)
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Abstract

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 have is then shared by the population-level probabilities, and that natural selection and random drift then have that same causal character. Moreover, natural selection and drift can then be viewed as two aspects of probability distributions over frequencies in populations of organisms. My characterization of population-level probabilities is largely neutral about what interpretation of probability is required, allowing my approach to support various positions on biological probabilities, including those which give biological probabilities one or another sort of causal character. ‡This paper has benefited from feedback on and discussions of this and earlier work. I want to thank André Ariew, Matt Barker, Lindley Darden, Patrick Forber, Nancy Hall, Mohan Matthen, Samir Okasha, Jeremy Pober, Robert Richardson, Alex Rosenberg, Eric Seidel, Denis Walsh, and Bill Wimsatt. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HB 414A, 900 13th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294-1260; e-mail: [email protected]

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Marshall Abrams
University of Alabama, Birmingham

Citations of this work

A New Foundation for the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.Charles H. Pence & Grant Ramsey - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):851-881.
Not a sure thing: Fitness, probability, and causation.Denis M. Walsh - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (2):147-171.
A critical review of the statisticalist debate.Jun Otsuka - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):459-482.
Really Statistical Explanations and Genetic Drift.Marc Lange - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (2):169-188.

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