On the explanatory roles of natural selection

Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):329-342 (2005)
Can selection explain why individuals have the traits they do? This question has generated significant controversy. I will argue that the debate encompasses two separable aspects, to detrimental effect: (1) the role of selection in explaining the origin and evolution of biological traits and (2) the implications this may have for explaining why individuals have the traits they do. (1) can be settled on the basis of evolutionary theory while (2) requires additional, extra-scientific assumptions. By making a distinction between traits affected by a single factor and traits affected by multiple factors I show that selection can, under certain conditions, help explain the origin of traits. Resolving the first aspect enables us to critically assess the various incompatible and independent philosophical commitments made within the second aspect of the debate.
Keywords evolutionary theory  explanation  natural selection
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10539-005-5588-2
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,316
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Robert C. Cummins (1975). Functional Analysis. Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

View all 6 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Ulrich E. Stegmann (2010). What Can Natural Selection Explain? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (1):61-66.
Jonathan Birch (2012). The Negative View of Natural Selection. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (2):569-573.

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

51 ( #93,998 of 1,932,585 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #272,096 of 1,932,585 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.