Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 33–53

Are Random Drift and Natural Selection Conceptually Distinct?

  • Roberta L. Millstein

DOI: 10.1023/A:1012990800358

Cite this article as:
Millstein, R.L. Biology & Philosophy (2002) 17: 33. doi:10.1023/A:1012990800358


The latter half of thetwentieth century has been marked by debates inevolutionary biology over the relativesignificance of natural selection and randomdrift: the so-called ``neutralist/selectionist''debates. Yet John Beatty has argued that it isdifficult, if not impossible, to distinguishthe concept of random drift from the concept ofnatural selection, a claim that has beenaccepted by many philosophers of biology. Ifthis claim is correct, then theneutralist/selectionist debates seem at bestfutile, and at worst, meaningless. I reexaminethe issues that Beatty raises, and argue thatrandom drift and natural selection, conceivedas processes, can be distinguished from one another.

BeattyBrandonCarsoncausal relevancechanceconceptual distinctiondiscriminate samplingevolutionHodgeindiscriminate samplingnatural selectionneutralismoutcomeprobabilityprocessrandom driftselectionism

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta L. Millstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, HaywardHaywardU.S.A.