The Early History of Chance in Evolution

Authors
Charles H. Pence
Université Catholique de Louvain
Abstract
Work throughout the history and philosophy of biology frequently employs ‘chance’, ‘unpredictability’, ‘probability’, and many similar terms. One common way of understanding how these concepts were introduced in evolution focuses on two central issues: the first use of statistical methods in evolution (Galton), and the first use of the concept of “objective chance” in evolution (Wright). I argue that while this approach has merit, it fails to fully capture interesting philosophical reflections on the role of chance expounded by two of Galton's students, Karl Pearson and W.F.R. Weldon. Considering a question more familiar from contemporary philosophy of biology—the relationship between our statistical theories of evolution and the processes in the world those theories describe—is, I claim, a more fruitful way to approach both these two historical actors and the broader development of chance in evolution.
Keywords chance  Charles Darwin  evolution  Francis Galton  Karl Pearson  natural selection
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2015
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2014.09.006
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 35,812
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

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.

View all 34 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Many Chances of Charles Darwin. [REVIEW]Charles H. Pence - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53:107-110.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Chance Variation: Darwin on Orchids.John Beatty - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (5):629-641.
Evolution: Teleology or Chance? [REVIEW]F. J. K. Soontiëns - 1991 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 22 (1):133-141.
Chance and Natural Selection.John Beatty - 1984 - Philosophy of Science 51 (2):183-211.
Chance as an Explanatory Factor in Evolutionary Biology.Timothy Shanahan - 1991 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 13 (2):249 - 268.
‘‘Describing Our Whole Experience’’: The Statistical Philosophies of W. F. R. Weldon and Karl Pearson.Charles H. Pence - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (4):475-485.
On the Meaning of Chance in Biology.James A. Coffman - 2014 - Biosemiotics 7 (3):377-388.
Beatty on Chance and Natural Selection.Timothy Shanahan - 1989 - Philosophy of Science 56 (3):484-489.
Coadaptation and the Inadequacy of Natural Selection.Mark Ridley - 1982 - British Journal for the History of Science 15 (1):45-68.
Discussion: Leo Buss's the Evolution of Individuality.David B. Resnik - 1992 - Biology and Philosophy 7 (4):453-460.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2015-03-18

Total downloads
23 ( #273,217 of 2,293,655 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #251,891 of 2,293,655 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature