Bookkeeping or metaphysics? The units of selection debate

Synthese 138 (3):337 - 361 (2004)
Abstract
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.
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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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