PhilSci Archive

Can fitness differences be a cause of evolution?

Ramsey, Grant (2013) Can fitness differences be a cause of evolution? Philosophy and Theory in Biology, 5 (201306). pp. 1-13. ISSN 1949-0739

can-fitness-differences-be-a-cause-of-evolution.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (382kB)


The causal status of fitness and natural selection is increasingly called into doubt in the philosophical literature. For example, Elliott Sober argues that the fitness of individual organisms is holistic; i.e., it is dependent on causally independent factors like census size. Others have argued that fitness differences cannot properly be causes of evolutionary change. In this paper I directly challenge the holistic conclusion, and thereby shed light on the debates over the causal status of fitness. I show that the causalists and statisticalists are—to a large degree—arguing past each other. There is a plurality of fitness concepts; some are legitimately causal, while others seem to be based, at least in part, on purely statistical parameters. But such facts say nothing about whether fitness in general is causal or statistical.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Keywords: causal, drift, evolution, fitness, holism, organism, population, selection, statistical
Depositing User: Users 15304 not found.
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 16:54
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2014 16:54
Item ID: 10746
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophy and Theory in Biology
Publisher: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle:
Date: April 2013
Page Range: pp. 1-13
Volume: 5
Number: 201306
ISSN: 1949-0739

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item