The Early History of Chance in Evolution: Causal and Statistical in the 1890s

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2012
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Abstract
Work throughout the history and philosophy of biology frequently employs ‘chance’, ‘unpredictability’, ‘probability’, and many similar terms. One common way of understanding how these concepts were introduced in evolution focuses on two central issues: the first use of statistical methods in evolution (Galton), and the first use of the concept of “objective chance” in evolution (Wright). I argue that while this approach has merit, it fails to fully capture interesting philosophical reflections on the role of chance expounded by two of Galton's students, Karl Pearson and W.F.R. Weldon. Considering a question more familiar from contemporary philosophy of biology—the relationship between our statistical theories of evolution and the processes in the world those theories describe—is, I claim, a more fruitful way to approach both these two historical actors and the broader development of chance in evolution.
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modern, theory-ladenness, probability, statistics, evolution, biology, the history of the shift of evolutionary biology from a non-statistical and non-chancy theory to a statistical and chancy theory
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Preprint, http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/9890/
Downstream publication: Pence, Charles H. (2015) "The early history of chance in evolution." Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, Special Issue 50 Integrated History and Philosophy of Science in Practice, 48-58.
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