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Quantum Indeterminism and Evolutionary Biology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2022

David N. Stamos*
Department of Philosophy, York University
Send requests for offprints to the author. Department of Philosophy, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3.


In “The Indeterministic Character of Evolutionary Theory: No ‘Hidden Variables Proof’ But No Room for Determinism Either,” Brandon and Carson (1996) argue that evolutionary theory is statistical because the processes it describes are fundamentally statistical. In “Is Indeterminism the Source of the Statistical Character of Evolutionary Theory?” Graves, Horan, and Rosenberg (1999) argue in reply that the processes of evolutionary biology are fundamentally deterministic and that the statistical character of evolutionary theory is explained by epistemological rather than ontological considerations. In this paper I focus on the topic of mutation. By focusing on some of the theory and research on this topic from early to late, I show how quantum indeterminism hooks up to point mutations (via tautomeric shifts, proton tunneling, and aqueous thermal motion). I conclude with a few thoughts on some of the wider implications of this topic.

Research Article
Copyright © 2001 by the Philosophy of Science Association

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Thanks for helpful comments are due to two anonymous referees for Philosophy of Science and the following molecular biologists: John Drake, Jozef Kwiatkowski, Tom Martin, Ronald Pearlman, Thomas Schneider, R.C. von Borstel, Alan Weiner, and my late mentor Robert Haynes, with whom this paper should have been co-authored and to whose memory it is dedicated.


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