The role of causal processes in the neutral and nearly neutral theories

Philosophy of Science 75 (5):548-559 (2008)
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Abstract

The neutral and nearly neutral theories of molecular evolution are sometimes characterized as theories about drift alone, where drift is described solely as an outcome, rather than a process. We argue, however, that both selection and drift, as causal processes, are integral parts of both theories. However, the nearly neutral theory explicitly recognizes alleles and/or molecular substitutions that, while engaging in weakly selected causal processes, exhibit outcomes thought to be characteristic of random drift. A narrow focus on outcomes obscures the significant role of weakly selected causal processes in the nearly neutral theory.

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Roberta L. Millstein
University of California, Davis

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