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Mutation, Randomness, and Evolution$
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Arlin Stoltzfus

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780198844457

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198844457.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 05 August 2021

Practical Randomness

Practical Randomness

(p.35) Chapter 3 Practical Randomness
Mutation, Randomness, and Evolution

Arlin Stoltzfus

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 addresses the idea of randomness as a simplifying assumption, beginning with a discussion (using examples from phylogenetics) of the reasons that scientists employ simplifying assumptions that are known to be incorrect. That is, some ways of thinking about mutation may be useful, even if they are only approximately correct. Approximations come at a cost, and thus the practical use of an approximation, e.g., the assumption that mutation is uniform when it really is not, is a matter of weighing costs and benefits. The application of probabilistic reasoning to problems of mutation may be understood as an extension of logic that does not rely on any concept of “randomness.” In this context, references to “chance” or “randomness” as something that exists in the physical world, rather than in our minds, represent what E.T. Jaynes calls a “mind projection fallacy.”

Keywords:   null hypothesis, predictability, uniformity, independence, assumptions

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