Journal Article

An Explication of the Causal Dimension of Drift

Peter Gildenhuys

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 3, pages 521-555
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
An Explication of the Causal Dimension of Drift

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Among philosophers, controversy over the notion of drift in population genetics is ongoing. This is at least partly because the notion of drift has an ambiguous usage among population geneticists. My goal in this paper is to explicate the causal dimension of drift, to say what causal influences are responsible for the stochasticity in population genetics models. It is commonplace for population genetics to oppose the influence of selection to that of drift, and to consider how the dynamics of populations are altered when each has greater or lesser influence. I define the causes that are referred to as drift when researchers speak this way.


Populations and Variant Types

The Cause–Effect Ambiguity of Drift

Non-directional Factors in Population Genetics

How Nev Is Used in Population Genetics

Causal Conceptions of Drift 6.1

The Millstein/Beatty conception of drift


Rosenberg and Bouchard: Drift as initial conditions


Why drift is instituted by NINPICs


How NINPICS work


NINPICs and random sampling


Independent sampling and effective population size


Variance in progeny number


Population effects of NINPICs

NINPICs and the Stochastic Character of Selection Theory



Journal Article.  14847 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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