Four Pillars of Statisticalism

Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (1):1-18 (2017)
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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 change; they are not discrete, apportionable causes. Our objective here is to provide a definitive statement of the statistical position, so as to allay some confusions in the current literature. We outline four commitments that are central to statisticalism. They are: 1. Natural Selection is a higher order effect; 2. Trait fitness is primitive; 3. Modern Synthesis (MS)-models are substrate neutral; 4. MS-selection and drift are model-relative.

Author Profiles

Mohan Matthen
University of Toronto, Mississauga
André Ariew
University of Missouri, Columbia
Denis Walsh
University of Toronto, St. George Campus


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