The Rise of Chance in Evolutionary Theory

The Rise of Chance in Evolutionary Theory

A Pompous Parade of Arithmetic

1st Edition - November 25, 2021

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  • Author: Charles H. Pence
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780323912914
  • eBook ISBN: 9780323912921

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The Rise of Chance in Evolutionary Theory: A Pompous Parade of Arithmetic explores a pivotal conceptual moment in the history of evolutionary theory: the development of its extensive reliance on a wide array of concepts of chance. It tells the history of a methodological and conceptual development that reshaped our approach to natural selection over a century, ranging from Darwin’s earliest notebooks in the 1830s to the early years of the Modern Synthesis in the 1930s. Far from being a “pompous parade of arithmetic,” as one early critic argued, evolution transformed during this period to make these conceptual and technical tools indispensable.   This book charts the role of chance in evolutionary theory from its beginnings to the earliest days of modern evolutionary theory, making it an ideal resource for evolutionary biologists, historians, philosophers, and researchers in science studies or biological statistics.

Key Features

  • Analyzes contributions of key historical figures and assesses how and why these “foundational” conclusions were reached by original evolutionary biologists, including Darwin, Galton, Pearson, and more
  • Describes the journey of the role of chance in evolutionary theory and illuminates our contemporary understanding
  • Presents the historical narrative in a non-technical way, focusing on the conceptual structure of evolutionary theory


Researchers and academics in evolution and evolutionary biology, history of science, philosophy of science, and science studies; Advanced undergraduate students in evolution/evolutionary biology, statistics, history, or philosophy

Table of Contents

  • 1. Chance governs the descent of a farthing: Charles Darwin
    2. The wonderful form of cosmic order: Francis Galton
    3. The only ultimate test of the theory of natural selection: The Early Years of Biometry
    4. Here is the true gospel: Biometry After Mendelism
    5. Reconciling the biometrical conclusions: Evolution from 1906 to 1918
    6. What natural selection must be doing: R. A. Fisher’s Early Synthesis
    7. Conclusions, historiographical and philosophical Index

Product details

  • No. of pages: 190
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2021
  • Published: November 25, 2021
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780323912914
  • eBook ISBN: 9780323912921

About the Author

Charles H. Pence

Charles H. Pence is Chargé de cours (Assistant Professor) at the Institut supérieur de philosophie, and director of the Center for the Philosophy of Science and Society (CEFISES) at the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium. Previously, he was Assistant Professor and Director of the LSU Ethics Institute at Louisiana State University. He is the author of 2 books and over 20 articles and book chapters on the philosophy and history of evolutionary theory. His work centers on the integrated philosophy and history of biology, with a particular focus on the introduction and contemporary use of concepts of chance and methods of statistics in evolutionary theory.

Affiliations and Expertise

Chargé de cours, Institut supérieur de philosophie, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

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