Précis of Evolution and the Levels of Selection [Book Review]

The ‘levels of selection’ question is one of the most fundamental in evolutionary biology, for it arises directly from the logic of Darwinism. As is well-known, the principle of natural selection is entirely abstract; it says that any entities satisfying certain conditions will evolve by natural selection, whatever those entities are. (These conditions are: variability, associated fitness differences, and heritability (cf. Lewontin 1970).) This fact, when combined with the fact that the biological world is hierarchically structured, i.e. smaller biological units are nested within larger ones, gives rise to the levels of selection question. For in principle, entities at many different hierarchical levels, above and below that of the ‘individual organism’, (e.g. gene, chromosome, cell, kin group, colony, lineage, species) can satisfy the requirements for Darwinian evolution. This possibility has long been recognised by biologists, from Darwin himself to contemporary proponents of ‘multi-level selection’; and there exist numerous biological phenomena which suggest that it has actually occurred
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DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2010.00470.x
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Robert Brandon (1982). The Levels of Selection. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:315 - 323.
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