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A Defense of Propensity Interpretations of Fitness

Robert C. Richardson and Richard M. Burian
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1992, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1992), pp. 349-362
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/192767
Page Count: 14
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A Defense of Propensity Interpretations of Fitness
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Abstract

We offer a systematic examination of propensity interpretations of fitness, which emphasizes the role that fitness plays in evolutionary theory and takes seriously the probabilistic character of evolutionary change. We distinguish questions of the probabilistic character of fitness from the particular interpretations of probability which could be incorporated. The roles of selection and drift in evolutionary models support the view that fitness must be understood within a probabilistic framework, and the specific character of organism/environment interactions supports the conclusion that fitness must be understood as a propensity rather than as a limiting frequency.

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