Population level causation and a unified theory of natural selection

Biology and Philosophy 14 (4):521-536 (1999)
Sober (1984) presents an account of selection motivated by the view that one property can causally explain the occurrence of another only if the first plays a unique role in the causal production of the second. Sober holds that a causal property will play such a unique role if it is a population level cause of its effect, and on this basis argues that there is selection for a trait T only if T is a population level cause of survival and reproductive success. Sterelny and Kitcher (1988) claim against Sober that some traits directly subject to selection will not satisfy the probabilistic condition on population level causation. In this paper I show that Sober has the resources to resist the Sterelny-Kitcher complaint, but I argue that not all traits that satisfy the probabilistic condition play the required unique role in the production of their effects.
Keywords fitness  natural selection  population level causation  unification
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