The trials of life: Natural selection and random drift

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

Denis Walsh
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Tim Lewens
Cambridge University
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.
Natural selection as a population-level causal process.Roberta L. Millstein - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (4):627-653.
Four Pillars of Statisticalism.Denis M. Walsh, André Ariew & Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (1):1-18.

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References found in this work

Philosophy of Biology.Elliott Sober - 1993 - Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
Mental causation.Stephen Yablo - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (2):245-280.
Instrumental Biology, or the Disunity of Science.Alexander Rosenberg - 1994 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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