Causal processes, fitness, and the differential persistence of lineages

Philosophy of Science 75 (5):560-570 (2008)
Ecological fitness has been suggested to provide a unifying definition of fitness. However, a metric for this notion of fitness was in most cases unavailable except by proxy with differential reproductive success. In this article, I show how differential persistence of lineages can be used as a way to assess ecological fitness. This view is inspired by a better understanding of the evolution of some clonal plants, colonial organisms, and ecosystems. Differential persistence shows the limitation of an ensemblist noncausal understanding of evolution. Causal explanations are necessary to understand the evolution by natural selection of these biological systems. †To contact the author write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Montreal, P.O. Box 6128, Station Centre‐Ville, Montreal, Quebec, H3C 3J7 Canada; e‐mail:
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