Erkenntnis 76 (2):171-194 (2012)
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 organisms. It also claimed that the only causation at work is those aggregated individual interactions, natural selection being only predictive and explanatory, but it is implicitly committed to a process-view of causation. I formulate a counterfactual construal of the causal statements underlying selectionist explanations, and show that they hold because of the reference they make to ecological reliable factors. Considering case studies, I argue that this counterfactual view of causal relevance proper to natural selection captures more salient features of evolutionary explanations than the statisticalist view, and especially makes sense of the difference between selection and drift. I eventually establish equivalence between causal relevance of traits and natural selection itself as a cause
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References found in this work BETA
The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus.Elliott Sober - 1984 - University of Chicago Press.
Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation.James Woodward - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Citations of this work BETA
Inscrutability and the Opacity of Natural Selection and Random Genetic Drift: Distinguishing the Epistemic and Metaphysical Aspects.Philippe Huneman - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (3):491-518.
Probability and Manipulation: Evolution and Simulation in Applied Population Genetics.Marshall Abrams - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (S3):519-549.
Assessing Statistical Views of Natural Selection: Room for Non-Local Causation?Philippe Huneman - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):604-612.
Niche Construction Theory as an Explanatory Framework for Human Phenomena.Efraim Wallach - forthcoming - Synthese:1-24.
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