Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

I examine the concept of “fitness” in the philosophy of evolutionary biology to show how discussions of probability in biology can go wrong, and right. Many of the critiques of the propensity interpretation of fitness have focused on the mathematical aspects of fitness; re-focusing on several aspects of the propensity interpretation of probability more generally can help to address these concerns. I conclude with some general lessons for thinking about probability in biology. The propensity interpretation of fitness, properly understood, solves the explanatory circularity problem and the mismatch problem, andalso withstands many other problems. Fitness is the propensity for organisms to survive and reproduce in particular environments and in particular populations. Fitness values can be described in terms of distributions of propensities and can be modeled for any number of generations using computer simulations. Fitness is a causal concept. Relative fitness is what matters for natural selection.

Keywords: probability, biology, fitness, natural selection, propensity interpretation, Mills, Beatty, Finsen, Gillespie, Rice

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.