Contemporary Perspectives on the Meaning, Roles, and Implications of Chance in Evolution
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Introduction and General Remarks
Since Darwin’s time, and especially since the modern synthesis in the first half of the twentieth century, researchers have recognized that chance plays some role in evolution. Just which role, what its relative importance is as an evolutionary factor and what its presence implies for our broader conception of the natural world have been matters of extensive empirical and conceptual debate.
To give just a few examples of the places where chance and contingency appear in evolutionary theory, consider the following: (1) Sometimes natural disasters occur (e.g., an earthquake, a forest fire) for which none of the organisms in a population is better adapted than any others. In those cases, the subset of organisms that survive and reproduce will be a random sample from the original population (this would be a case of drift); (2) On the other hand, mutationsare also said to be random. This sometimes means that they are not biased towards genes or traits that...
Conflict of Interest
The author declares no conflict of interest.