Chance in Evolution

Chicago: University of Chicago (2016)
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Abstract

Evolutionary biology since Darwin has seen a dramatic entrenchment and elaboration of the role of chance in evolution. It is nearly impossible to discuss contemporary evolutionary theory in any depth at all without making reference to at least some concept of “chance” or “randomness.” Many processes are described as chancy, outcomes are characterized as random, and many evolutionary phenomena are thought to be best described by stochastic or probabilistic models. Chance is taken by various authors to be central to the understanding of fitness, genetic drift, macroevolution, mutation, foraging theory, and environmental variation, to take but a few examples. And for each of these notions, there are yet more stories to tell. Each weaves itself into the various branches of evolutionary theory in myriad different ways, with a wide variety of effects on the history and current state of life on Earth. Each is grounded in a particular trajectory in the history of philosophy and the history of biology, and has inspired a variety of responses throughout science and culture. This book endeavors to offer a cross-section of biological, historical, philosophical, and theological approaches to understanding chance in evolutionary theory.

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Charles H. Pence
Université Catholique de Louvain

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