Darwinism without populations: a more inclusive understanding of the “Survival of the Fittest”

Abstract
Following Wallace’s suggestion, Darwin framed his theory using Spencer’s expression “survival of the fittest”. Since then, fitness occupies a significant place in the conventional understanding of Darwinism, even though the explicit meaning of the term ‘fitness’ is rarely stated. In this paper I examine some of the different roles that fitness has played in the development of the theory. Whereas the meaning of fitness was originally understood in ecological terms, it took a statistical turn in terms of reproductive success throughout the 20th Century. This has lead to the ever-increasing importance of sexually reproducing organisms and the populations they compose in evolutionary explanations. I will argue that, moving forward, evolutionary theory should look back at its ecological roots in order to be more inclusive in the type of systems it examines. Many biological systems can only be satisfactorily accounted for by offering a non-reproductive account of fitness. This argument will be made by examining biological systems with very small or transient population structures. I argue this has significant consequences for how we define Darwinism, increasing the significance of survival over that of reproduction
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References found in this work BETA
André Ariew & R. C. Lewontin (2004). The Confusions of Fitness. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (2):347-363.

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Citations of this work BETA
W. Ford Doolittle (2013). Microbial Neopleomorphism. Biology and Philosophy 28 (2):351-378.
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