Explanations of the evolution of sex: A plurality of local mechanisms

In Stephen H. Kellert, Helen E. Longino & C. Kenneth Waters (eds.), Scientific Pluralism, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. University of Minnesota Press 167-189 (2006)
The evolutionary maintenance of sexual reproduction is a case of explanatory pluralism of central importance to evolutionary biology. I analyze this pluralism from an epistemological perspective. My thesis is that the various explanations of sex are explanatory by virtue of local factors and hence are importantly distinct from one another and cannot be subsumed under a single unifying framework. A critic may argue that philosophical accounts of mechanism can provide just such a framework. I show that this attempt at unification fails because the accounts of sex are not explanatory simply in light of being their being mechanistic; rather they are explanatory because they are particular kinds of mechanisms. The explanatory power of a mechanism is dependent on its epistemological context and the contexts of these mechanisms differ.
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