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  1. Organisms, Traits, and Population Subdivisions: Two Arguments Against the Causal Conception of Fitness?Grant30 Ramsey - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):589-608.
    A major debate in the philosophy of biology centers on the question of how we should understand the causal structure of natural selection. This debate is polarized into the causal and statistical positions. The main arguments from the statistical side are that a causal construal of the theory of natural selection's central concept, fitness, either (i) leads to inaccurate predictions about population dynamics, or (ii) leads to an incoherent set of causal commitments. In this essay, I argue that neither the (...)
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  • Implications of Use of Wright’s FST for the Role of Probability and Causation in Evolution.Marshall Abrams - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (5):596-608.
    Sewall Wright ’s FST is a mathematical test widely used in empirical applications to characterize genetic and other differences between subpopulations, and to identify causes of those differences. Cockerham and Weir’s popular approach to statistical estimation of FST is based on an assumption sometimes formulated as a claim that actual populations tested are sampled from.
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  • A Critical Review of the Statisticalist Debate.Jun Otsuka - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):459-482.
    Over the past decade philosophers of biology have discussed whether evolutionary theory is a causal theory or a phenomenological study of evolution based solely on the statistical features of a population. This article reviews this controversy from three aspects, respectively concerning the assumptions, applications, and explanations of evolutionary theory, with a view to arriving at a definite conclusion in each contention. In so doing I also argue that an implicit methodological assumption shared by both sides of the debate, namely the (...)
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  • A New Foundation for the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.Charles Pence & Grant Ramsey - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):851-881.
    The propensity interpretation of fitness (PIF) is commonly taken to be subject to a set of simple counterexamples. We argue that three of the most important of these are not counterexamples to the PIF itself, but only to the traditional mathematical model of this propensity: fitness as expected number of offspring. They fail to demonstrate that a new mathematical model of the PIF could not succeed where this older model fails. We then propose a new formalization of the PIF that (...)
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  • Four Pillars of Statisticalism.Denis M. Walsh, André Ariew & Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (1).
    Over the past fifteen years there has been a considerable amount of debate concerning what theoretical population dynamic models tell us about the nature of natural selection and drift. On the causal interpretation, these models describe the causes of population change. On the statistical interpretation, the models of population dynamics models specify statistical parameters that explain, predict, and quantify changes in population structure, without identifying the causes of those changes. Selection and drift are part of a statistical description of population (...)
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  • Probability and Manipulation: Evolution and Simulation in Applied Population Genetics.Marshall Abrams - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (S3):519-549.
    I define a concept of causal probability and apply it to questions about the role of probability in evolutionary processes. Causal probability is defined in terms of manipulation of patterns in empirical outcomes by manipulating properties that realize objective probabilities. The concept of causal probability allows us see how probabilities characterized by different interpretations of probability can share a similar causal character, and does so in such way as to allow new inferences about relationships between probabilities realized in different chance (...)
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  • Autonomous-Statistical Explanations and Natural Selection: Figure 1.André Ariew, Collin Rice & Yasha Rohwer - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (3):635-658.
    Shapiro and Sober claim that Walsh, Ariew, Lewens, and Matthen give a mistaken, a priori defense of natural selection and drift as epiphenomenal. Contrary to Shapiro and Sober’s claims, we first argue that WALM’s explanatory doctrine does not require a defense of epiphenomenalism. We then defend WALM’s explanatory doctrine by arguing that the explanations provided by the modern genetical theory of natural selection are ‘autonomous-statistical explanations’ analogous to Galton’s explanation of reversion to mediocrity and an explanation of the diffusion ofgases. (...)
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  • Assessing Statistical Views of Natural Selection: Room for Non-Local Causation?Philippe Huneman - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):604-612.
    Recently some philosophers have emphasized a potentially irreconcilable conceptual antagonism between the statistical characterization of natural selection and the standard scientific discussion of natural selection in terms of forces and causes. Other philosophers have developed an account of the causal character of selectionist statements represented in terms of counterfactuals. I examine the compatibility between such statisticalism and counterfactually based causal accounts of natural selection by distinguishing two distinct statisticalist claims: firstly the suggested impossibility for natural selection to be a cause (...)
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  • Why the Causal View of Fitness Survives.Jun Otsuka, Trin Turner, Colin Allen & Elisabeth A. Lloyd - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (2):209-224.
    We critically examine Denis Walsh’s latest attack on the causalist view of fitness. Relying on Judea Pearl’s Sure-Thing Principle and geneticist John Gillespie’s model for fitness, Walsh has argued that the causal interpretation of fitness results in a reductio. We show that his conclusion only follows from misuse of the models, that is, (1) the disregard of the real biological bearing of the population-size parameter in Gillespie’s model and (2) the confusion of the distinction between ordinary probability and Pearl’s causal (...)
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  • Natural Selection and Drift as Individual-Level Causes of Evolution.Pierrick Bourrat - 2018 - Acta Biotheoretica 66 (3):159-176.
    In this paper I critically evaluate Reisman and Forber’s :1113–1123, 2005) arguments that drift and natural selection are population-level causes of evolution based on what they call the manipulation condition. Although I agree that this condition is an important step for identifying causes for evolutionary change, it is insufficient. Following Woodward, I argue that the invariance of a relationship is another crucial parameter to take into consideration for causal explanations. Starting from Reisman and Forber’s example on drift and after having (...)
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  • Populations and Pigeons: Prosaic Pluralism About Evolutionary Causes.Marshall Abrams - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):294-301.
    and was correct to conclude that the way a biological population is described should affect conclusions about whether natural selection occurs, but wrong to conclude that natural selection is therefore not a cause. After providing a new argument that ignored crucial biological details, I give a biological illustration that motivates a fairly extreme dependence on description. I argue that contrary to an implication of , biologists allow much flexibility in describing populations, as contemporary research on recent human evolution shows. Properly (...)
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