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Causality in the Sciences$
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Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo, and Jon Williamson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199574131

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.001.0001

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Drift and the causes of evolution

Drift and the causes of evolution

(p.445) 21 Drift and the causes of evolution
Causality in the Sciences

Sahotra Sarkar

Oxford University Press

This chapter defends a stochastic dynamical interpretation of evolution under which drift does not emerge as an evolutionary cause, unlike mutation and selection. Rather, whether drift occurs in a population model depends on its constitutive assumptions, namely, whether the population size is finite. The same amount of selection makes quantitatively and qualitatively different predictions in finite and infinite population models: this is all that there is to drift. This argument is illustrated through the explicit solution of a haploid model in which differences in vital parameters lead to drift in the presence of selection. In the absence of these differences, the model reduces to a neutral model. In the infinite population limit, the standard results without drift also obtain. The stochastic dynamical interpretation is contrasted with the views that evolution is a theory of forces and the statistical interpretation of evolution.

Keywords:   causality, drift, dynamical interpretation of evolution, evolution, selection, stochasticity

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