Chance Variation and Evolutionary Contingency: Darwin, Simpson, <i>The Simpsons</i>, and Gould

John Beatty

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780195182057
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Chance Variation and Evolutionary Contingency: Darwin, Simpson, The Simpsons, and Gould

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The unpredictability of evolution by natural selection was given by Stephen Gould. Darwin is associated with chance variation but Paley argued that living things are the products of design. Simpson, for each case of directional evolution, either denied the phenomenon or offered an alternative explanation that did not rely on any unknown causal processes. According to Simpson, there were two main reasons to explain why evolution is unpredictable. The first is that evolution is driven principally by natural selection of chance variations and is termed “opportunistic” as there is no plan or provision by which organisms automatically vary in ways that are adaptive. The second reason is that there are “multiple solutions” to any environmental “problem”. Gould gave the hypothesis that the traits that predominate in a population are optimal for the environment inhabited by the population, and hence if different traits prevail in different populations, this must reflect environmental differences.

Keywords: evolution; chance; design; natural selection; variation; opportunistic; traits; differences

Article.  9742 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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