Journal Article

Fitness, Probability and the Principles of Natural Selection

Frédéric Bouchard and Alex Rosenberg

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 55, issue 4, pages 693-712
Published in print December 2004 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2004 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/55.4.693
Fitness, Probability and the Principles of Natural Selection

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We argue that a fashionable interpretation of the theory of natural selection as a claim exclusively about populations is mistaken. The interpretation rests on adopting an analysis of fitness as a probabilistic propensity which cannot be substantiated, draws parallels with thermodynamics which are without foundations, and fails to do justice to the fundamental distinction between drift and selection. This distinction requires a notion of fitness as a pairwise comparison between individuals taken two at a time, and so vitiates the interpretation of the theory as one about populations exclusively.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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