Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 577–585 | Cite as

Drift sometimes dominates selection, and vice versa: a reply to Clatterbuck, Sober and Lewontin

  • Robert Brandon
  • Leonore Fleming


Clatterbuck et al. (Biol Philos 28: 577–592, 2013) argue that there is no fact of the matter whether selection dominates drift or vice versa in any particular case of evolution. Their reasons are not empirically based; rather, they are purely conceptual. We show that their conceptual presuppositions are unmotivated, unnecessary and overly complex. We also show that their conclusion runs contrary to current biological practice. The solution is to recognize that evolution involves a probabilistic sampling process, and that drift is a deviation from probabilistic expectation. We conclude that conceptually, there are no problems with distinguishing drift from selection, and empirically—as modern science illustrates—when drift does occur, there is a quantifiable fact of the matter to be discovered.


Drift Selection Probabilistic sampling Chance Causal relevance Evolution 



We wish to thank the philosophy of biology reading group at Duke University and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments. Special thanks go to David McCandlish for help with some final tweaks.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUtica CollegeUticaUSA

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