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

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

Author Profiles

Roberta L. Millstein
University of California, Davis
Michael Dietrich
University of Pittsburgh


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