Darwinism as a Theory for Finite Beings

In Vittorio G. Hösle & Christian F. Illies (eds.), Darwinism and Philosophy. Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, USA: pp. 275-297 (2005)
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Darwin famously held that his use of the term "chance" in evolutionary theory merely "serves to acknowledge plainly our ignorance of the causes of each particular variation". Is this a tenable view today? Or should we revise our thinking about chance in evolution in light of the more advanced, quantitative models of Neo-Darwinian theory, which make substantial use of statistical reasoning and the concept of probability? Is determinism still a viable metaphysical doctrine about biological reality after the quantum revolution in physics, or dowe have to abandon it in favor of an objective indeterminism? In light of such reflections, what is the relevant interpretation of probability in evolutionary theory? Do biologists use the concept of probability because they are finite cognitive agents or because the evolutionary process is fundamentally probabilistic? In this paper, I will show that we do not yet fully understand the nature of chance in evolution.

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Marcel Weber
University of Geneva


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