Bookkeeping or metaphysics? The units of selection debate

Synthese 138 (3):337 - 361 (2004)
The Units of Selection debate is a dispute about the causes of population change. I argue that it is generated by a particular `dynamical'' interpretation of natural selection theory, according to which natural selection causes differential survival and reproduction of individuals and natural selection explanations cite these causes. I argue that the dynamical interpretation is mistaken and offer in outline an alternative, `statistical'' interpretation, according to which natural selection theory is a fancy kind of `bookkeeping''. It explains by citing the statistical structure of a population and not by citing the causes of survival and reproduction. From the perspective of the statistical interpretation there is no substantive Units of Selection issue.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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DOI 10.1023/B:SYNT.0000016426.73707.92
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Denis M. Walsh (2013). Descriptions and Models: Some Responses to Abrams. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):302-308.

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