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The Domain Relativity of Evolutionary Contingency

Lewis, Cory (2018) The Domain Relativity of Evolutionary Contingency. [Preprint]

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Abstract

A key issue in the philosophy of biology is evolutionary contingency, the degree to which evolutionary outcomes could have been different. Contingency is typically contrasted with evolutionary convergence, where different evolutionary pathways result in the same or similar outcomes. Convergences are given as evidence against the hypothesis that evolutionary outcomes are highly contingent. But the best available treatments of contingency do not, when read closely, produce the desired contrast with convergence. Rather, they produce a picture in which any degree of contingency is compatible with any degree of convergence. This is because convergence is the repeated production of a given outcome from different starting points, and contingency has been defined without reference to the size of the space of possible outcomes. In small spaces of possibilities, the production of repeated outcomes is almost assured. This paper presents a definition of contingency which includes this modal dimension in a way that does not reduce it to the binary notion of contingency found in standard modal logic. The result is a conception of contingency which properly contrasts with convergence, given some domain of possibilities and a measure defined over it. We should therefore not ask whether evolution is contingent or convergent simpliciter, but rather about the degree to which it is contingent or convergent in various domains, as measured in various ways.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Lewis, Corycory.lewis@utoronto.ca
Keywords: contingency, convergence, evolution, modality
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Biology
Depositing User: Dr. Cory Lewis
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2018 14:01
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2018 14:01
Item ID: 14729
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Biology
Date: 2018
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14729

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