The “averaging fallacy” and the levels of selection

Biology and Philosophy 19 (2):167-184 (2004)
This paper compares two well-known arguments in the units of selection literature, one due to , the other due to . Both arguments concern the legitimacy of averaging fitness values across contexts and making inferences about the level of selection on that basis. The first three sections of the paper shows that the two arguments are incompatible if taken at face value, their apparent similarity notwithstanding. If we accept Sober and Lewontin's criterion for when averaging genic fitnesses across diploid genotypes is illegitmate, we cannot accept Sober and Wilson's criterion for when averaging individual fitnesses across groups is illegitimate, and vice versa. The final section suggests a possible way of reconciling the two arguments, by invoking an ambiguity in the concept of genic selection.
Keywords Averaging fallacy  Genic selection  Group selection  Levels of selection
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DOI 10.1023/B:BIPH.0000024406.61340.6c
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Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, Ryan Giordano, Michael D. Edge & Rasmus Nielsen (2015). The Mind, the Lab, and the Field: Three Kinds of Populations in Scientific Practice. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 52:12-21.

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Similar books and articles
Elliott Sober (1980). Holism, Individualism, and the Units of Selection. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:93 - 121.
Tim Lewens (2010). The Natures of Selection. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (2):313-333.
Robert Brandon (1982). The Levels of Selection. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:315 - 323.
Samir Okasha (2001). Why Won't the Group Selection Controversy Go Away? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (1):25-50.

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