Title

Autonomous Statistical Explanations and Natural Selection

Document Type

Article

Publication Title

The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Version

Author's Final Manuscript

Volume

66

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

Shapiro and Sober ([2007]) claim that Walsh, Ariew, Lewens, and Matthen (henceforth WALM) give a mistaken, a priori defense of natural selection and drift as epiphenomenal. Contrary to Shapiro and Sober’s claims, we first argue that WALM’s explanatory doctrine does not require a defense of epiphenomenalism. We then defend WALM’s explanatory doctrine by arguing that the explanations provided by the modern genetical theory of natural selection are ‘autonomous-statistical explanations’ analogous to Galton’s explanation of reversion to mediocrity and an explanation of the diffusion ofgases. We then argue that whereas Sober’s theory of forces is an adequate description of Darwin’s theory, WALM’s explanatory doctrine is required to understand how themodern genetical theory of natural selection explains large-scale statistical regularities.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axt054

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