Biology and Philosophy 19 (2):185-203 (2004)

Abstract
The concept of fitness, central to population genetics and to the synthetic theory of evolution, is discussed. After a historical introduction on the origin of this concept, the current meaning of it in population genetics is examined: a cause of the selective process and its quantification. Several difficulties arise for its exact definition. Three adequacy criteria for such a definition are formulated. It is shown that it is impossible to formulate an adequate definition of fitness respecting these criteria. The propensity definition of fitness is presented and rejected. Finally it is argued that fitness is a conceptual device, a useful tool, only for descriptive purposes of selective processes, changing from case to case, and thus devoid of any substantial physical counterpart. Any attempt to its reification is an apport to the metaphysical load evolutionary theory has inherited from Natural Theology.
Keywords Fitness  Population genetics  Theory of evolution
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DOI 10.1023/B:BIPH.0000024402.80835.a7
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References found in this work BETA

Adaptation and Evolutionary Theory.Robert N. Brandon - 1978 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 9 (3):181.
The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.Susan K. Mills & John H. Beatty - 1979 - Philosophy of Science 46 (2):263-286.

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Citations of this work BETA

A New Foundation for the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.Charles H. Pence & Grant Ramsey - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):851-881.
How Do Natural Selection and Random Drift Interact?Marshall Abrams - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):666-679.
Levels, Time and Fitness in Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality.Pierrick Bourrat - 2015 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 7 (20150505).
The Unity of Fitness.Marshall Abrams - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (5):750-761.
Driftability.Grant Ramsey - 2013 - Synthese 190 (17):3909-3928.

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