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The Adaptive Landscape in Evolutionary Biology$
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Erik Svensson and Ryan Calsbeek

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199595372

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199595372.001.0001

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Sewall Wright’s Adaptive Landscape: Philosophical Reflections on Heuristic Value

Sewall Wright’s Adaptive Landscape: Philosophical Reflections on Heuristic Value

Chapter:
(p.16) Chapter 2 Sewall Wright’s Adaptive Landscape: Philosophical Reflections on Heuristic Value
Source:
The Adaptive Landscape in Evolutionary Biology
Author(s):

Robert A. Skipper

Michael R. Dietrich

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199595372.003.0002

Sewall Wright's 1932 adaptive landscape diagram is the most influential visual heuristic in evolutionary biology. Yet, the diagram has met with criticism from biologists and philosophers since its origination. This chapter states that the diagram is a valuable evaluation heuristic for assessing the dynamical behaviour of population genetics models. Although Wright's particular use of it is of dubious value, other biologists have established the diagram's positive heuristic value for evaluating dynamical behaviour. This chapter surveys some of the most influential biological and philosophical work considering the role of the adaptive landscape in evolutionary biology. The chapter builds on a distinction between models, metaphors, and diagrams to make a case for why adaptive landscapes as diagrams have heuristic value for evolutionary biologists.

Keywords:   Sewall Wright, adaptive landscape diagram, heuristic models, metaphors

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