Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

Work throughout the history and philosophy of biology frequently employs ‘chance’, ‘unpredictability’, ‘probability’, and many similar terms. One common way of understanding how these concepts were introduced in evolution focuses on two central issues: the first use of statistical methods in evolution (Galton), and the first use of the concept of “objective chance” in evolution (Wright). I argue that while this approach has merit, it fails to fully capture interesting philosophical reflections on the role of chance expounded by two of Galton's students, Karl Pearson and W.F.R. Weldon. Considering a question more familiar from contemporary philosophy of biology—the relationship between our statistical theories of evolution and the processes in the world those theories describe—is, I claim, a more fruitful way to approach both these two historical actors and the broader development of chance in evolution.

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