Synthese 192 (11):3487-3507 (2015)

Hayley Clatterbuck
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Several recent arguments by philosophers of biology have challenged the traditional view that evolutionary factors, such as drift and selection, are genuine causes of evolutionary outcomes. In the case of drift, advocates of the statistical theory argue that drift is merely the sampling error inherent in the other stochastic processes of evolution and thus denotes a mathematical, rather than causal, feature of populations. This debate has largely centered around one particular model of drift, the Wright–Fisher model, and this has contributed to the plausibility of the statisticalists’ arguments. However, an examination of alternative, predictively inequivalent models shows that drift is a genuine cause that can be manipulated to change population outcomes. This case study illustrates the influence of methodological assumptions on ontological judgments, particularly the pernicious effect of focusing on a particular model at the expense of others and confusing its assumptions and idealizations for true claims about the phenomena being modeled
Keywords Genetic drift  Wright–Fisher  Semantic view of theories   Population genetics  Evolution
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-014-0598-8
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,091
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Evolution and the Levels of Selection.Samir Okasha - 2006 - Oxford University Press.
What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?Marc Lange - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):485-511.

View all 27 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Modeling: Neutral, Null, and Baseline.William C. Bausman - 2018 - Philosophy of Science 85 (4):594-616.
Drift and Evolutionary Forces: Scrutinizing the Newtonian Analogy.Víctor J. Luque - 2016 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 31 (3):397-410.
Evolutionary causes as mechanisms: a critical analysis.Saúl Pérez-González & Victor J. Luque - 2019 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (2):13.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

An Explication of the Causal Dimension of Drift.Peter Gildenhuys - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):521-555.
Stochastic Evolutionary Dynamics: Drift Versus Draft.Robert A. Skipper - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (5):655-665.
Driftability.Grant Ramsey - 2013 - Synthese 190 (17):3909-3928.
Drift: A Historical and Conceptual Overview.Anya Plutynski - 2007 - Biological Theory 2 (2):156-167.
Population Genetics.Roberta L. Millstein & Robert A. Skipper - 2006 - In David L. Hull & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge University Press.
What is Drift? A Response to Millstein, Skipper, and Dietrich.Mohan Matthen - 2010 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 2 (20130604).
Manipulation and the Causes of Evolution.Kenneth Reisman & Patrick Forber - 2005 - Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1113-1123.


Added to PP index

Total views
65 ( #176,106 of 2,506,247 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,984 of 2,506,247 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes