Article ID: CBB001552300

The Evolution of Wright's (1932) Adaptive Field to Contemporary Interpretations and Uses of Fitness Landscapes in the Social Sciences (2015)


The concepts of adaptation and fitness have such an appeal that they have been used in other scientific domains, including the social sciences. One particular aspect of this theory transfer concerns the so-called fitness landscape models. At first sight, fitness landscapes visualize how an agent, of any kind, relates to its environment, how its position is conditional because of the mutual interaction with other agents, and the potential routes towards improved fitness. The allure of fitness landscapes is first and foremost that it represents a complex story about adaptation and fitness in one coherent image. Different accounts of fitness landscapes in different domains in the social sciences suggest that the properties and functions of fitness landscapes are attributed rather freely. These differences are testimony of the model's versatility. At the same time, one will notice that the different approaches can also create ambiguity about the exact meaning and role of fitness landscapes in the social sciences. This article presents an extensive literature survey of the diverging interpretations and uses of fitness landscapes in the social sciences and discusses the implications in terms of how these models inform scientific inquiry.

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Authors & Contributors
Godfrey-Smith, Peter
Provine, William B.
Ruse, Michael
Oyama, Susan
Griesemer, James R.
Sterelny, Kim
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Journal of the History of Biology
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Philosophy of Science
Biology and Philosophy
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
University of Chicago Press
Cambridge University Press
American Philosophical Society
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Pennsylvania
Adaptation (biology)
Social sciences
Natural selection
Philosophy of biology
Wright, Sewall
Fisher, Ronald Aylmer
Dobzhansky, Theodosius
Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson
Mayr, Ernst
Pearson, Karl
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
United States
Great Britain
Cambridge. University. Laboratory of Molecular Biology

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