A critical review of the statisticalist debate

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Otsuka, Jun
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preprint description
The statisticalist interpretation of evolutionary theory construes the modern mathematical genetics as a purely phenomenological theory that explains evolutionary changes by statistical, but not causal, features of populations. The view has provoked heated discussions over the past decade, prompting numerous philosophical analyses from var- ious perspectives but at the same time making it difficult to draw a clear picture of the controversy. In view of evaluating these analyses and attaining a correct understanding of evolutionary theory, this article reviews the debate by breaking it down to three aspects, respectively focusing on the assumptions, applications, and explanations of evolutionary theory. Under each rubric the claims made by statisticalists and their opponents are assessed with a view to arriving at a definite conclusion. In so doing the article will also ask why the debate got so prolonged and intricate, trying to identify a part the reason in an assumption that has been shared, often implicitly, by both sides of the controversy.