Measured, modeled, and causal conceptions of fitness

Academic Article


  • This paper proposes partial answers to the following questions: in what senses can fitness differences plausibly be considered causes of evolution? What relationships are there between fitness concepts used in empirical research, modeling, and abstract theoretical proposals? How does the relevance of different fitness concepts depend on research questions and methodological constraints? The paper develops a novel taxonomy of fitness concepts, beginning with type fitness (a property of a genotype or phenotype), token fitness (a property of a particular individual), and purely mathematical fitness. Type fitness includes statistical type fitness, which can be measured from population data, and parametric type fitness, which is an underlying property estimated by statistical type fitnesses. Token fitness includes measurable token fitness, which can be measured on an individual, and tendential token fitness, which is assumed to be an underlying property of the individual in its environmental circumstances. Some of the paper's conclusions can be outlined as follows: claims that fitness differences do not cause evolution are reasonable when fitness is treated as statistical type fitness, measurable token fitness, or purely mathematical fitness. Some of the ways in which statistical methods are used in population genetics suggest that what natural selection involves are differences in parametric type fitnesses. Further, it's reasonable to think that differences in parametric type fitness can cause evolution. Tendential token fitnesses, however, are not themselves sufficient for natural selection. Though parametric type fitnesses are typically not directly measurable, they can be modeled with purely mathematical fitnesses and estimated by statistical type fitnesses, which in turn are defined in terms of measurable token fitnesses. The paper clarifies the ways in which fitnesses depend on pragmatic choices made by researchers. © 2012 Abrams.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Abrams M
  • Volume

  • 3
  • Issue

  • OCT