The trials of life: Natural selection and random drift

Philosophy of Science 69 (3):452-473 (2002)
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Abstract

We distinguish dynamical and statistical interpretations of evolutionary theory. We argue that only the statistical interpretation preserves the presumed relation between natural selection and drift. On these grounds we claim that the dynamical conception of evolutionary theory as a theory of forces is mistaken. Selection and drift are not forces. Nor do selection and drift explanations appeal to the (sub-population-level) causes of population level change. Instead they explain by appeal to the statistical structure of populations. We briefly discuss the implications of the statistical interpretation of selection for various debates within the philosophy of biologythe `explananda of selection' debate and the `units of selection' debate.

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Author Profiles

Tim Lewens
Cambridge University
Denis Walsh
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Ariew Andre
University of Missouri, Columbia

Citations of this work

Natural Kindness.Matthew H. Slater - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):375-411.
Models Don’T Decompose That Way: A Holistic View of Idealized Models.Collin Rice - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):179-208.
Natural Selection as a Population-Level Causal Process.Roberta L. Millstein - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (4):627-653.
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.

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