Changing conceptions of species

Biology and Philosophy 11 (3):405-420 (1996)
Species are thought by many to be important units of evolution. In this paper, I argue against that view. My argument is based on an examination of the role of species in the synthetic theory of evolution. I argue that if one adopts a gradualist view of evolution, one cannot make sense of the claim that species are units in the minimal sense needed to claim that they are units of evolution, namely, that they exist as discrete entities over time. My second argument is directed against an appeal to Eldredge and Gould's theory of punctuated equilibria to support the claim that species are units of evolution. If one adopts their view, it may be possible to identify discrete temporal entities that can plausibly be termed species, but there is no reason to claim that those entities are units of evolution. Thus, on two plausible interpretations of the role of natural selection in the process of evolution, species are of no special importance. I then consider some of the reasons why species have been thought to be important evolutionary units by many contemporary evolutionary biologists. Finally, I discuss briefly the implications of this conclusion for evolutionary biology.
Keywords species  evolution  natural selection  gradualism  punctuated equilibria  variation  Lamarck  Darwin
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DOI 10.1007/BF00128789
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References found in this work BETA
Ernst Mayr (1963). Animal Species and Evolution. Belknap of Harvard University Press.
David L. Hull (1978). A Matter of Individuality. Philosophy of Science 45 (3):335-360.
David L. Hull (1980). Individuality and Selection. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 11:311-332.

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Citations of this work BETA
Andreas De Block (2008). Why Mental Disorders Are Just Mental Dysfunctions : Some Darwinian Arguments. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 39 (3):338-346.

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