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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: 31 July 2021

Randomness as Irrelevance

Randomness as Irrelevance

(p.93) Chapter 6 Randomness as Irrelevance
Mutation, Randomness, and Evolution

Arlin Stoltzfus

Oxford University Press

Under the neo-Darwinian theory, selection is the potter and variation is the clay: peculiarities or regularities of variation may emerge from internal causes, but these are ultimately irrelevant, because selection governs the outcome of evolution. Chapter 6 addresses this sense of “randomness” as irrelevance or unimportance, featuring (1) an analogical-metaphysical argument in which mutation is equated with raw materials or fuel, or is said to act at the “wrong level” to be an evolutionary cause; (2) direct empirical arguments; (3) mechanistic claims, e.g., claims about the ability of the “gene pool” to maintain variation, or of selection to be creative; (4) methodological claims to the effect that selection is amenable to study, but not mutation; and (5) an explanatory claim to the effect that mutation, though perhaps influential, only affects the boring parts of evolution. Appendix D provides quotations on the theme of unimportance.

Keywords:   raw material, creativity, neo-Darwinism, opposing forces, shifting gene frequencies

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