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Traditional analyses of the curve fitting problem maintain that the data do not indicate what form the fitted curve should take. Rather, this issue is said to be settled by prior probabilities, by simplicity, or by a background theory. In this paper, we describe a result due to Akaike [1973], which shows how the data can underwrite an inference concerning(More)
The hypothesis that all life on earth traces back to a single common ancestor is a fundamental postulate in modern evolutionary theory. Yet, despite its widespread acceptance in biology, there has been comparatively little attention to formally testing this "hypothesis of common ancestry". We review and critically examine some arguments that have been(More)
The problem of simplicity involves three questions: How is the simplicity of a hypothesis to be measured? How is the use of simplicity as a guide to hypothesis choice to be justified? And how is simplicity related to other desirable features of hypotheses-that is, how is simplicity to be traded-off? The present paper explores these three questions, from a(More)
Akaike's framework for thinking about model selection in terms of the goal of predictive accuracy and his criterion for model selection have important philosophical implications. Scientists often test models whose truth values they already know, and they often decline to reject models that they know full well are false. Instrumentalism helps explain this(More)
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In a " classic " phylogenetic inference problem, the observed taxa are assumed to be the leaves of a bifurcat-ing tree and the goal is to infer just the " topology " of the tree (i.e., the formal tree structure linking the extant taxa at the tips), not amount of time between branching events, or amount of evolution that has taken place on branches, or(More)
The concept of fitness began its career in biology long before evolutionary theory was mathematized. Fitness was used to describe an organism's vigor, or the degree to which organisms " fit " into their environments. An organism's success in avoiding predators and in building a nest obviously contribute to its fitness and to the fitness of its offspring,(More)