Natural Selection as a Cause: Probability, Chance, and Selective Biases.

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Longy, Fran├žoise
conference paper description
To what do "natural selection" and "genetic drift" refer? To causes, as is usually thought? Or to mere statistical effects? The question arises because assessing causes faces specific difficulties when stochastic processes are concerned. In this paper, I establish that a central anti-causalist argument from Matthen and Ariew (2002) does not work, because selection doesn't depend on chance (or unknown factors) in the manner that current analogies with games of chance suggest. I then explain how a clear understanding of how chance and biases are involved in natural selection supports one form of causalism, while every other form has indeed to be rejected.