The indeterministic character of evolutionary theory: No "no hidden variables proof" but no room for determinism either

Philosophy of Science 63 (3):315-337 (1996)
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Abstract

In this paper we first briefly review Bell's (1964, 1966) Theorem to see how it invalidates any deterministic "hidden variable" account of the apparent indeterminacy of quantum mechanics (QM). Then we show that quantum uncertainty, at the level of DNA mutations, can "percolate" up to have major populational effects. Interesting as this point may be it does not show any autonomous indeterminism of the evolutionary process. In the next two sections we investigate drift and natural selection as the locus of autonomous biological indeterminacy. Here we conclude that the population-level indeterminacy of natural selection and drift are ultimately based on the assumption of a fundamental indeterminacy at the level of the lives and deaths of individual organisms. The following section examines this assumption and defends it from the determinists' attack. Then we show that, even if one rejects the assumption, there is still an important reason why one might think evolutionary theory (ET) is autonomously indeterministic. In the concluding section we contrast the arguments we have mounted against a deterministic hidden variable account of ET with the proof of the impossibility of such an account of QM

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Author Profiles

Robert Brandon
Duke University
Scott Carson
Ohio University

Citations of this work

Thinking about evolutionary mechanisms: Natural selection.Robert Skipper & Roberta Millstein - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):327-347.

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References found in this work

Four Decades of Scientific Explanation.Wesley C. Salmon & Anne Fagot-Largeault - 1989 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 16 (2):355.
The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus.Elliott Sober - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (3):397-399.
Scientific Explanation.P. Kitcher & W. C. Salmon - 1992 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43 (1):85-98.
The propensity interpretation of fitness.Susan K. Mills & John H. Beatty - 1979 - Philosophy of Science 46 (2):263-286.
Adaptation and Evolutionary Theory.Robert N. Brandon - 1978 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 9 (3):181.

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