The Causal Structure of Evolutionary Theory

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Australasian Journal of Philosophy, ISSN: 0004-8402, Vol: 94, Issue: 3, Page: 421-434

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Ramsey, Grant
Informa UK Limited; Taylor & Francis
Arts and Humanities
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ABSTRACT: One contentious debate in the philosophy of biology is that between the statisticalists and causalists. The former understand core evolutionary concepts like fitness and selection to be mere statistical summaries of underlying causal processes. In this view, evolutionary changes cannot be causally explained by selection or fitness. The causalist side, on the other hand, holds that populations can change in response to selection—one can cite fitness differences or driftability in causal explanations of evolutionary change. But, on the causalist side, it is often not clear how, precisely, one should understand these causes. Thus, much more could be said about what sort of causes fitness and driftability are. In this paper, I borrow Dretske's distinction between structuring and triggering causes and I suggest that fitness and driftability are structuring causes of evolution.