Autonomous-Statistical Explanations and Natural Selection

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (3):635-658 (2015)
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Abstract

Shapiro and Sober claim that Walsh, Ariew, Lewens, and Matthen give a mistaken, a priori defense of natural selection and drift as epiphenomenal. Contrary to Shapiro and Sober’s claims, we first argue that WALM’s explanatory doctrine does not require a defense of epiphenomenalism. We then defend WALM’s explanatory doctrine by arguing that the explanations provided by the modern genetical theory of natural selection are ‘autonomous-statistical explanations’ analogous to Galton’s explanation of reversion to mediocrity and an explanation of the diffusion ofgases. We then argue that whereas Sober’s theory of forces is an adequate description of Darwin’s theory, WALM’s explanatory doctrine is required to understand how themodern genetical theory of natural selection explains large-scale statistical regularities. 1 Introduction2 Shapiro and Sober’s ‘Epiphenomenalism Do’s and Don’ts’3 WALM’s Explanatory Doctrine4 Galton’s Autonomous-Statistical Explanation5 A Second Example: The Statistical Explanation of the Diffusion of Gases6 Distinguishing Two Theories of Evolution by Natural Selection7 A Possible Objection: Are Statistical Laws Sufficient for Explanation?8 Conclusion

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Collin Rice
Colorado State University

Citations of this work

Models Don’T Decompose That Way: A Holistic View of Idealized Models.Collin Rice - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):179-208.
Outlines of a Theory of Structural Explanations.Philippe Huneman - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (3):665-702.
A Critical Review of the Statisticalist Debate.Jun Otsuka - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):459-482.

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References found in this work

Evolution, Population Thinking, and Essentialism.Elliott Sober - 1980 - Philosophy of Science 47 (3):350-383.
Scientific Explanation.James Woodward - 1979 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 30 (1):41-67.

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