Is Genetic Drift a Force?

Abstract

One hotly debated philosophical question in the analysis of evolutionary theory concerns whether or not evolution and the various factors which constitute it may profitably be considered as analogous to “forces” in the traditional, Newtonian sense. Several compelling arguments assert that the force picture is incoherent, due to the peculiar nature of genetic drift. I consider two of those arguments here – that drift lacks a predictable direction, and that drift is constitutive of evolutionary systems – and show that they both fail to demonstrate that a view of genetic drift as a force is untenable. I go on to diagnose the reasons for the stubborn persistence of this problem, considering two open philosophical issues and offering some preliminary arguments in support of the force metaphor.

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Citations of this work

The Composition of Forces.Olivier Massin - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (3):805-846.
Drift and Evolutionary Forces: Scrutinizing the Newtonian Analogy.Víctor J. Luque - 2016 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 31 (3):397-410.
The Origins of the Stochastic Theory of Population Genetics: The Wright-Fisher Model.Yoichi Ishida & Alirio Rosales - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 79:101226.

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References found in this work

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
The Scientific Image.Michael Friedman - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (5):274-283.

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