The Persistence of the R.A. Fisher-Sewall Wright Controversy

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Skipper, Robert
preprint description
This paper considers recent heated debates led by Jerry A. Coyne and Michael J. Wade on issues stemming from the 1929-1962 R. A. Fisher-Sewall Wright controversy in population genetics. William B. Provine once remarked that the Fisher-Wright controversy is central, fundamental, and very influential. Indeed, it is also persistent. The argumentative structure of the recent (1997-2000) debates is analyzed with the aim of eliminating a logical conflict in them, viz., that the two “sides” in the debates have different aims and that, as such, they are talking past each other. Given a philosophical analysis of the argumentative structure of the debates, suggestions supportive of Wade’s work on the debate are made that are aimed, modestly, at putting the persistent Fisher-Wright controversy on the course to resolution.