Sex and selection: A reply to Matthen

argues that when reproduction is sexual, natural selection can explain why individual organisms possess the traits they do. In stating his argument Matthen makes use of a conception of individual organisms as receptacles for collections of genes—a conception that cannot do the work Matthen requires of it. Either these receptacles are abstract objects, such as bare possibilities for organisms, or they are concrete. The first reading is too weak, since it allows selection to explain individual traits in both sexual and asexual contexts. The only concrete entities we might think of as receptacles for collections of genes are male or female gametes. It is true that in the sexual context selection explains why an individual gamete combines with a second gamete of one type rather than another; however, this is not to say that selection explains why an individual organism has the traits it does.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/52.3.589
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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.

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