Drift and “Statistically Abstractive Explanation”

Philosophy of Science 76 (4):464-487 (2009)
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Abstract
A hitherto neglected form of explanation is explored, especially its role in population genetics. “Statistically abstractive explanation” (SA explanation) mandates the suppression of factors probabilistically relevant to an explanandum when these factors are extraneous to the theoretical project being pursued. When these factors are suppressed, the explanandum is rendered uncertain. But this uncertainty traces to the theoretically constrained character of SA explanation, not to any real indeterminacy. Random genetic drift is an artifact of such uncertainty, and it is therefore wrong to reify it as a cause of evolution or as a process in its own right. *Received July 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, 170 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5R 2M8, Canada; e‐mail: mohan.matthen@utoronto.ca.
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Archival date: 2009-10-29
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2009-07-16

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