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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2004-05 >> abstracts

Friday, 28 January 2005

Misunderstandings about Fitness, Variance, and Skew

Jessica Pfeifer

Univiversity of Maryland, Baltimore County

12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: The widely accepted propensity account of fitness has recently faced criticism from its previous defenders due to Gillespie's (1974 & 1977) findings that variance can affect selection and Finsen and Beatty's (1989) similar finding with respect to skew.  Some believe that these results merely require a revision of the mathematical formulation of fitness (Beatty & Finsen 1989; Brandon 1990), though these mathematical reformulations do entail that fitness can only be defined schematically, since it must be defined differently in different circumstances.  This has led Rosenberg to argue that the schematic definition is, therefore, no real definition at all, and this provides additional reason to reject the propensity interpretation of fitness.  Sober (2002) argues that the revisions have even more profound implications for the metaphysics of fitness attributions.  Given that the revised definitions require reference to population size and since population size is extrinsic to the organism, Sober argues that “an organism’s fitness is not a propensity that it has” (2002, 320).  In the paper, I argue that these concerns are misplaced and that even the mathematical revisions may not be necessary.

Revised 3/11/08 - Copyright 2006