Contextual unanimity and the units of selection problem

Philosophy of Science 69 (1):118-137 (2002)
Sober and Lewontin's critique of genic selectionism is based upon the principle that a unit of selection should make a context‐independent contribution to fitness. Critics have effectively shown that this principle is flawed. In this paper I show that the context independence principle is an instance of a more general principle for characterizing causes,called the contextual unanimity principle. I argue that this latter principle, while widely accepted, is erroneous. What is needed is to replace the approach to causality characterized by the contextual unanimity criterion with an approach based on the concept of causal mechanism. After sketching such an approach, I show how it can be used to shed light on the units of selection problem.
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DOI 10.1086/338944
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Stuart Glennan (2005). Modeling Mechanisms. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 36 (2):443-464.
Robert A. Skipper & Roberta L. Millstein (2005). Thinking About Evolutionary Mechanisms: Natural Selection. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):327-347.

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