Mathematical Explanations in Evolutionary Biology or Naturalism? A Challenge for the Statisticalist

Foundations of Science:1-33 (forthcoming)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Abstract
This article presents a challenge that those philosophers who deny the causal interpretation of explanations provided by population genetics might have to address. Indeed, some philosophers, known as statisticalists, claim that the concept of natural selection is statistical in character and cannot be construed in causal terms. On the contrary, other philosophers, known as causalists, argue against the statistical view and support the causal interpretation of natural selection. The problem I am concerned with here arises for the statisticalists because the debate on the nature of natural selection intersects the debate on whether mathematical explanations of empirical facts are genuine scientific explanations. I argue that if the explanations provided by population genetics are regarded by the statisticalists as non-causal explanations of that kind, then statisticalism risks being incompatible with a naturalist stance. The statisticalist faces a dilemma: either she maintains statisticalism but has to renounce naturalism; or she maintains naturalism but has to content herself with an account of the explanations provided by population genetics that she deems unsatisfactory. This challenge is relevant to the statisticalists because many of them see themselves as naturalists.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
STEMEI-4
Upload history
Archival date: 2022-03-05
View other versions
Added to PP index
2021-09-24

Total views
23 ( #69,951 of 71,140 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
21 ( #37,700 of 71,140 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.