Chance in Evolution

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Grant Ramsey, Charles H. Pence
University of Chicago Press, Oct 25, 2016 - Science - 384 pages

This illuminating volume explores the effects of chance on evolution, covering diverse perspectives from scientists, philosophers, and historians.

The evolution of species, from single-celled organisms to multicellular animals and plants, is the result of a long and highly chancy history. But how profoundly has chance shaped life on earth? And what, precisely, do we mean by chance? Bringing together biologists, philosophers of science, and historians of science, Chance in Evolution is the first book to untangle the far-reaching effects of chance, contingency, and randomness on the evolution of life.

The book begins by placing chance in historical context, starting with the ancients and moving through Darwin to contemporary biology. It documents the shifts in our understanding of chance as Darwin’s theory of evolution developed into the modern synthesis, and how the acceptance of chance in Darwinian theory affected theological resistance to it. Other chapters discuss how chance relates to the concepts of genetic drift, mutation, and parallel evolution—as well as recent work in paleobiology and the experimental evolution of microbes. By engaging in collaboration across biology, history, philosophy, and theology, this book offers a comprehensive overview both of the history of chance in evolution and of our current understanding of the impact of chance on life.



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About the author (2016)

Grant Ramsey is a BOFZAP Research Professor in the Institute of Philosophy at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. Charles H. Pence is assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Louisiana State University.

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