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Agents and Goals in Evolution$
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Samir Okasha

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198815082

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198815082.001.0001

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Wright’s Adaptive Landscape, Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem

Wright’s Adaptive Landscape, Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem

Chapter:
(p.73) 3 Wright’s Adaptive Landscape, Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem
Source:
Agents and Goals in Evolution
Author(s):

Samir Okasha

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198815082.003.0004

Fitness maximization, or optimization, is a controversial idea in evolutionary biology. One classical formulation of this idea is that natural selection will tend to push a population up a peak in an adaptive landscape, as Sewall Wright first proposed. However, the hill-climbing property only obtains under particular conditions, and even then the ascent is not usually by the steepest route; this shows why it is misleading to assimilate the process of natural selection to a process of goal-directed choice. A different formulation of the idea of fitness-maximization is R. A. Fisher’s ‘fundamental theorem of natural selection’. However, the theorem points only to a weak sense in which selection is an optimizing process, for it requires that ‘environmental constancy’ be understood in a highly specific way. It does not vindicate the claim that natural selection has an intrinsic tendency to produce adaptation.

Keywords:   adaptive landscape, Sewall Wright, hill-climbing, R. A. Fisher, fundamental theorem, fitness, optimization

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