Review of Godfrey-Smith's Darwinian populations and natural selection [Book Review]

Philosophical Books 51 (2):83-101 (2010)
Natural selection is an extremely powerful process – so powerful, in fact, that it is often tempting to deploy it in explaining phenomena as wide-ranging as the persistence of blue eyes, the origins or persistence of religious belief, or, the history of science. One long-standing debate among both critics and advocates of Darwin’s concerns the scope of Darwinian explanations, and how we are to draw the line. Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection is a detailed examination of this question. The book explores the criteria for what may count as a “Darwinian population,” by which Godfrey-Smith means, which collections of entities have the capacity to undergo evolution via natural selection (p. 6). Drawing upon his answer to this question, Godfrey-Smith examines and provides his own solution to the following long-standing debates in philosophy of biology: (a) the twin problems of reproduction and individuation of biological entities, (b) the persistent “gene’s eye view,” (c) the levels and units of selection problem, and (d) the evolution of cultural artifacts and behaviors.
Keywords evolution  natural selection  heritability
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