Genetic drift as a directional factor: biasing effects and a priori predictions

Biology and Philosophy 32 (4):535-558 (2017)
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Abstract

The adequacy of Elliott Sober’s analogy between classical mechanics and evolutionary theory—according to which both theories explain via a zero-force law and a set of forces that alter the zero-force state—has been criticized from various points of view. I focus here on McShea and Brandon’s claim that drift shouldn’t be considered a force because it is not directional. I argue that there are a number of different theses that could be meant by this, and show that one of those theses—the idea that drift cannot bias populations to be taken somewhere in the evolutionary space from one generation to the next—is actually false. Not only has this thesis been implicitly assumed in the discussion of the force analogy thus far, but it is also commonly found in a wider range of philosophical and biological texts. I argue that correcting this view, and the usual images associated with it, will thereby bring heuristic benefits that impact the force analogy discussion, but that also go beyond it.

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References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.David Bohm - 1964 - Philosophical Quarterly 14 (57):377-379.
The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus.Elliott Sober - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (3):397-399.

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