Reproduction and the central project of evolutionary theory

Biology and Philosophy 2 (4):383-396 (1987)
Abstract
In much of the discourse of evolutionary theory, reproduction is treated as an autonomous function of the individual organism — even in discussions of sexually reproducing organisms. In this paper, I examine some of the functions and consequences of such manifestly peculiar language. In particular, I suggest that it provides crucial support for the central project of evolutionary theory — namely that of locating causal efficacy in intrinsic properties of the individual organism. Furthermore, I argue that the language of individual reproduction is maintained by certain methodological conventions that both obscure many of the problems it generates and serve to actively impede attempts to redress those difficulties that can be identified. Finally, I suggest that inclusion of the complexities introduced by sexual reproduction — in both language and methodology — may radically undermine the individualist focus of evolutionary theory.
Keywords Reproduction  individualism  fitness  natural selection  units of selection
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References found in this work BETA
Henry Byerly (1986). Fitness as a Function. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1986:494 - 501.
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