The Conflation of "Chance" in Evolution

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Pence, Charles H.
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Discussions of “chance” and related concepts (such as “stochasticity,” “randomness,” “indeterminism,” etc.) are found throughout philosophical work on evolutionary theory. By drawing attention to three very commonly-recognized distinctions, I separate four independent concepts falling under the broad heading of “chance”: randomness (as a property of sequences), epistemic unpredictability, causal indeterminism, and probabilistic causal processes. Far from a merely semantic distinction, however, it is demonstrated that conflation of these obviously distinct notions has an important bearing on debates at the core of evolutionary theory, particularly the debate over the interpretation of fitness, natural selection, and genetic drift.