How do fitness and naturalselection relate to other evolutionary factors like architectural constraint, mode of reproduction, and drift? In one way of thinking, drawn from Newtonian dynamics, fitness is one force driving evolutionary change and added to other factors. In another, drawn from statistical thermodynamics, it is a statistical trend that manifests itself in naturalselection histories. It is argued that the first model is incoherent, the second appropriate; a hierarchical realization model is proposed as (...) a basis for a statistical treatment. It emerges that naturalselection does not cause evolution; it just is evolution. The theory incorporates relations of statistical correlation, but not the kind of causation found in fundamental physical processes. (shrink)
This chapter defends the positive thesis which constitutes its title. It argues first, that the mind has been shaped by naturalselection; and second, that the result of that shaping process is a modular mental architecture. The arguments presented are all broadly empirical in character, drawing on evidence provided by biologists, neuroscientists and psychologists (evolutionary, cognitive, and developmental), as well as by researchers in artificial intelligence. Yet the conclusion is at odds with the manifest image of ourselves provided (...) both by introspection and by common-sense psychology. The chapter concludes by sketching how a modular architecture might be developed to account for the patently unconstrained character of human thought, which has served as an assumption in a number of recent philosophical attacks on mental modularity. (shrink)
The explanatory role of naturalselection is one of the long-term debates in evolutionary biology. Nevertheless, the consensus has been slippery because conceptual confusions and the absence of a unified, formal causal model that integrates different explanatory scopes of naturalselection. In this study we attempt to examine two questions: (i) What can the theory of naturalselection explain? and (ii) Is there a causal or explanatory model that integrates all naturalselection (...) explananda? For the first question, we argue that five explananda have been assigned to the theory of naturalselection and that four of them may be actually considered explananda of naturalselection. For the second question, we claim that a probabilistic conception of causality and the statistical relevance concept of explanation are both good models for understanding the explanatory role of naturalselection. We review the biological and philosophical disputes about the explanatory role of naturalselection and formalize some explananda in probabilistic terms using classical results from population genetics. Most of these explananda have been discussed in philosophical terms but some of them have been mixed up and confused. We analyze and set the limits of these problems. (shrink)
In this paper, using a multilevel approach, we defend the positive role of naturalselection in the generation of organismal form. Despite the currently widespread opinion that naturalselection only plays a negative role in the evolution of form, we argue, in contrast, that the Darwinian factor is a crucial (but not exclusive) factor in morphological organization. Analyzing some classic arguments, we propose incorporating the notion of ‘downward causation’ into the concept of ‘naturalselection.’ (...) In our opinion, this kind of causation is fundamental to the operation of selection as a creative evolutionary process. (shrink)
An influential argument due to Elliott Sober, subsequently strengthened by Denis Walsh and Joel Pust, moves from plausible premises to the bold conclusion that naturalselection cannot explain the traits of individual organisms. If the argument were sound, the explanatory scope of selection would depend, surprisingly, on metaphysical considerations concerning origin essentialism. I show that the Sober-Walsh-Pust argument rests on a flawed counterfactual criterion for explanatory relevance. I further show that a more defensible criterion for explanatory relevance (...) recently proposed by Michael Strevens lends support to the view that naturalselection can be relevant to the explanation of individual traits. (shrink)
Naturalselection 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 NaturalSelection 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 naturalselection (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. (shrink)
Some naturalistic theories of consciousness give an essential role to teleology.1 This teleology is said to arise due to naturalselection. Thus it is claimed that only certain states, namely, those that have been selected for by evolutionary pro- cesses because they contribute to (or once contributed to) an organism’s fitness, are conscious states. These theories look as if they are assigning a creative role to naturalselection. If a state is conscious only if it has (...) been selected for, then selec- tion appears to be able to create a new feature of states, namely, their conscious nature. Yet, intuitively, naturalselection cannot create anything. Natural selec- tion chooses certain features that already exist and makes them more (or less) prevalent in a population, but it cannot bring features into existence itself. Natu- ral selection can select for conscious states, but it cannot create them. This con- clusion has recently been argued for by Steven Horst (1999). If it is right, then teleological theories of conscious states should be rejected. A state cannot become a conscious experience in virtue of having been selected for by evolu- tionary process. (shrink)
Naturalselection [Darwin 1859] is perhaps the most important component of evolutionary theory, since it is the only known process that can bring about the adaptation of living organisms to their environments [Gould 2002]. And yet, its study is conceptually and methodologically complex, and much attention needs to be paid to a variety of phenomena that can limit the efficacy of selection [Antonovics 1976; Pigliucci and Kaplan 2000]. In this essay, I will use examples of recent work (...) carried out in my laboratory to illustrate basic research on naturalselection as conducted using a variety of approaches, including field work, laboratory experiments, and molecular genetics. I also discuss the application of this array of tools to questions pertinent to conservation biology, and in particular to the all-important problem of what makes invasive species so good at creating the sort of problems they are infamous for [Lee 2002]. (shrink)
A tempting argument for human rationality goes like this: it is more conducive to survival to have true beliefs than false beliefs, so it is more conducive to survival to use reliable belief-forming strategies than unreliable ones. But reliable strategies are rational strategies, so there is a selective advantage to using rational strategies. Since we have evolved, we must use rational strategies. In this paper I argue that some criticisms of this argument offered by Stephen Stich fail because they rely (...) on unsubstantiated interpretations of some results from experimental psychology. I raise two objections to the argument: (i) even if it is advantageous to use rational strategies, it does not follow that we actually use them; and (ii) naturalselection need not favor only or even primarily reliable belief-forming strategies. (shrink)
Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species is unquestionably one of the chief landmarks in biology. The Origin (as it is widely known) was literally only an abstract of the manuscript Darwin had originally intended to complete and publish as the formal presentation of his views on evolution. Compared with the Origin, his original long manuscript work on NaturalSelection, which is presented here and made available for the first time in printed form, has more abundant examples and (...) illustrations of Darwin's argument, plus an extensive citation of sources. (shrink)
This paper is about the reconstruction of the Darwinian Theory of NaturalSelection. My aim here is to outline the fundamental law of this theory in an informal way from its applications in The Origin of Species and to make explicit its fundamental concepts. I will introduce the theory-nets of special laws that arise from the specialization of the fundamental law. I will assume the metatheoretical structuralist frame. I will also point out many consequences that my proposal has (...) about a few metatheoretical discussions around the theory and, finally, I will relate my propose to other reconstructions available. (shrink)
Perhaps the most readable and accessible of the great works of scientific imagination, The Origin of Species sold out on the day it was published in 1859. Theologians quickly labeled Charles Darwin the most dangerous man in England, and, as the Saturday Review noted, the uproar over the book quickly "passed beyond the bounds of the study and lecture-room into the drawing-room and the public street." Yet, after reading it, Darwin's friend and colleague T. H. Huxley had a different reaction: (...) "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that." Based largely on Darwin's experience as a naturalist while on a five-year voyage aboard H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species set forth a theory of evolution and naturalselection that challenged contemporary beliefs about divine providence and the immutability of species. A landmark contribution to philosophical and scientific thought, this edition also includes an introductory historical sketch and a glossary Darwin later added to the original text. Charles Darwin grew up considered, by his own account, "a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect." A quirk of fate kept him from the career his father had deemed appropriate--that of a country parson--when a botanist recommended Darwin for an appointment as a naturalist aboard H.M.S. Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin is also the author of the five-volume work Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle (1839) and The Descent of Man (1871). (shrink)
Fisher’s ‘fundamental theorem of naturalselection’ is notoriously abstract, and, no less notoriously, many take it to be false. In this paper, I explicate the theorem, examine the role that it played in Fisher’s general project for biology, and analyze why it was so very fundamental for Fisher. I defend Ewens (1989) and Lessard (1997) in the view that the theorem is in fact a true theorem if, as Fisher claimed, ‘the terms employed’ are ‘used strictly as defined’ (...) (1930, p. 38). Finally, I explain the role that projects such as Fisher’s play in the progress of scientific inquiry. (shrink)
Philosophers have not taken the evolution of human beings seriously enough. If they did, argues Peter Munz, many long-standing philosophical problems would be resolved. One of the philosophical consequences of biology is that all the knowledge produced in evolution is a priori established hypothetically by chance mutation and selective retention rather than by observation and intelligent induction. For organisms as embodied theories, selection is natural. For theories as disembodied organisms, it is artificial. Following Karl Popper, the growth of (...) knowledge is seen to be continuous from "the amoeba to Einstein." Philosophical Darwinism brings perspective to contemporary debates. It has far-reaching implications for cognitive science and artificial intelligence, and questions attempts from the field of biology to reduce mental events to neural processes. Most importantly, it provides a rational postmodern alternative to what the author views as the unreasonable postmodern theories of Kuhn, Lyotard, and Rorty. (shrink)
Introduction to the Sketch of 1842 and the Essay of 1844, by F. Darwin (1909)--Sketch of 1842, by C. Darwin.--Essay of 1844, by C. Darwin.--On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection, by C. Darwin and A. Wallace.
Familiarity with Charles Darwin's treatise on evolution is essential to every well-educated individual. One of the most important books ever published--and a continuing source of controversy, a century and a half later--this classic of science is reproduced in a facsimile of the critically acclaimed first edition.
The reaction to Darwin's Origin of Species varied in many countries according to the roles played by national scientific institutions and traditions and the attitudes of religious and political groups. The contributors to this volume, including M. J. S. Hodge, David Hull, and Roberto Moreno, gathered in 1972 at an international conference on the comparative reception of Darwinism. Their essays look at early pro- and anti-Darwinism arguments, and three additional (...) comparative essays and appendices add a larger perspective. For this paperback edition, Thomas F. Glick has added a new preface commenting on recent research. (shrink)
In their book What Darwin Got Wrong , Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini construct an a priori philosophical argument and an empirical biological argument. The biological argument aims to show that naturalselection is much less important in the evolutionary process than many biologists maintain. The a priori argument begins with the claim that there cannot be selection for one but not the other of two traits that are perfectly correlated in a population; it concludes that there (...) cannot be an evolutionary theory of adaptation. This article focuses mainly on the a priori argument. *Received March 2010; revised July 2010. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, 5185 Helen C. White Hall, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI 53706; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
We distinguish dynamical and statistical interpretations of evolutionary theory. We argue that only the statistical interpretation preserves the presumed relation between naturalselection and drift. On these grounds we claim that the dynamical conception of evolutionary theory as a theory of forces is mistaken. Selection and drift are not forces. Nor do selection and drift explanations appeal to the (sub-population-level) causes of population level change. Instead they explain by appeal to the statistical structure of populations. We (...) briefly discuss the implications of the statistical interpretation of selection for various debates within the philosophy of biologythe `explananda of selection' debate and the `units of selection' debate. (shrink)
In “Spandrels,” Gould and Lewontin criticized what they took to be an all-too-common conviction, namely, that adaptation to current environments determines organic form. They stressed instead the importance of history . In this paper, we elaborate upon their concerns by appealing to other writings in which those issues are treated in greater detail. Gould and Lewontin’s combined emphasis on history was three-fold. First, evolution by naturalselection does not start from scratch, but always refashions preexisting forms. Second, preexisting (...) forms are refashioned by the selection of whatever mutational variations happen to arise: the historical order of mutations needs to be taken into account. Third, the order of environments and selection pressures also needs to be taken into account. (shrink)
To evaluate Hume's thesis that causal claims are always empirical, I consider three kinds of causal statement: ?e1 caused e2 ?, ?e1 promoted e2 ?, and ?e1 would promote e2 ?. Restricting my attention to cases in which ?e1 occurred? and ?e2 occurred? are both empirical, I argue that Hume was right about the first two, but wrong about the third. Standard causal models of naturalselection that have this third form are a priori mathematical truths. Some are (...) obvious, others less so. Empirical work on naturalselection takes the form of defending causal claims of the first two types. I provide biological examples that illustrate differences among these three kinds of causal claim. (shrink)
In a series of articles and in a recent book, What Darwin Got Wrong, Jerry Fodor has objected to Darwin’s principle of naturalselection on the grounds that it assumes nature has intentions.1 Despite the near universal rejection of Fodor’s argument by biologists and philosophers of biology (myself included),2 I now believe he was almost right. I will show this through a historical examination of a principle that Darwin thought as important as naturalselection, his principle (...) of divergence. The principle was designed to explain a phenomenon obvious to any observer of nature, namely, that animals and plants form a hierarchy of clusters. Theodosius Dobzhansky made this the motivating observation of his great synthesizing work, Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937): “the living world is not a single array of individuals in which any two variants are connected by a series of intergrades, but an array of more or less distinctly separate arrays, intermediates between which are absent or at least rare. . . Small.. (shrink)
Does naturalselection explain why individual organisms have the traits that they do? According to "the Negative View," naturalselection does not explain why any individual organism has the traits that it does. According to "the Positive View," naturalselection at least sometimes does explain why an individual organism has the traits that it does. In this paper, I argue that recent arguments for the Positive View fail in virtue of running afoul of the (...) doctrine of origin essentialism and I demonstrate that other recent defenses of the Negative View depend upon my own for their plausibility. (shrink)
In “Two Ways of Thinking About Fitness and NaturalSelection” (Matthen and Ariew ; henceforth “Two Ways”), we asked how one should think of the relationship between the various factors invoked to explain evolutionary change – selection, drift, genetic constraints, and so on. We suggested that these factors are not related to one another as “forces” are in classical mechanics. We think it incoherent, for instance, to think of naturalselection and drift as separate and (...) opposed “forces” in evolutionary change – that it makes sense to say, for instance, that selection contributed 80% to the actual evolutionary history of the human eye, and drift only 20%. We proposed instead a statistical view of the Theory of Evolution, a view in which fitness is not a cause of evolution, but rather a measure of growth. We also argued for a “hierarchical realization model” for thinking about the relationship between evolutionary factors such as those mentioned above, and suggested that in a “fully specified model”, as we call it below, there is no distinction between naturalselection and evolution. (shrink)
Among the liveliest disputes in evolutionary biology today are disputes concerning the role of chance in evolution--more specifically, disputes concerning the relative evolutionary importance of naturalselection vs. so-called "random drift". The following discussion is an attempt to sort out some of the broad issues involved in those disputes. In the first half of this paper, I try to explain the differences between evolution by naturalselection and evolution by random drift. On some common construals of (...) "naturalselection", those two modes of evolution are completely indistinguishable. Even on a proper construal of "naturalselection", it is difficult to distinguish between the "improbable results of naturalselection" and evolution by random drift. In the second half of this paper, I discuss the variety of positions taken by evolutionists with respect to the evolutionary importance of random drift vs. naturalselection. I will then consider the variety of issues in question in terms of a conceptual distinction often used to describe the rise of probabilistic thinking in the sciences. I will argue, in particular, that what is going on here is not, as might appear at first sight, just another dispute about the desirability of "stochastic" vs. "deterministic" theories. Modern evolutionists do not argue so much about whether evolution is stochastic, but about how stochastic it is. (shrink)
The theory of naturalselection is a rich systematization of biological knowledge without a first principle. When formulations of a proposed principle of naturalselection are examined carefully, each is seen to be exhaustively analyzable into a proposition about sources of fitness and a proposition about consequences of fitness. But whenever the fitness of an organic variety is well defined in a given biological situation, its sources are local contingencies together with the background of laws from (...) disciplines other than the theory of naturalselection; and the consequences of fitness for the long range fate of organic varieties are essentially applications of probability theory. Hence there is no role and no need for a principle of the theory of naturalselection, and any generalities that may hold in that theory are derivative rather than fundamental. (shrink)
ÒThe concept of fitness is,Ó Philip Kitcher says, Òimportant both to informal presentations of evolutionary theory and to the mathematical formulations of [population genetics].Ó1 He is absolutely right. The difficulty is to harmonize these very different ways of understanding its role. In this paper, we examine how naturalselection relates to the other explanatory factors invoked by evolutionary theory. We argue that the Òinformal presentationsÓ to which Kitcher alludes give an incoherent account of the relation. A more appropriate (...) model is drawn from the statistical conceptual framework of population genetics. We argue that this model demands a far-reaching revision of some widely accepted notions of causal relations in evolution. (shrink)
This paper explores whether naturalselection, a putative evolutionary mechanism, and a main one at that, can be characterized on either of the two dominant conceptions of mechanism, due to Glennan and the team of Machamer, Darden, and Craver, that constitute the “new mechanistic philosophy.” The results of the analysis are that neither of the dominant conceptions of mechanism adequately captures naturalselection. Nevertheless, the new mechanistic philosophy possesses the resources for an understanding of natural (...)selection under the rubric. (shrink)
The latter half of the twentieth century has been marked by debates in evolutionary biology over the relative significance of naturalselection and random drift: the so-called “neutralist/selectionist” debates. Yet John Beatty has argued that it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish the concept of random drift from the concept of naturalselection, a claim that has been accepted by many philosophers of biology. If this claim is correct, then the neutralist/selectionist debates seem at best (...) futile, and at worst, meaningless. I reexamine the issues that Beatty raises, and argue that random drift and naturalselection, conceived as processes, can be distinguished from one another. (shrink)
Recent discussions in the philosophy of biology have brought into question some fundamental assumptions regarding evolutionary processes, naturalselection in particular. Some authors argue that naturalselection is nothing but a population-level, statistical consequence of lower-level events (Matthen and Ariew ; Walsh et al. ). On this view, naturalselection itself does not involve forces. Other authors reject this purely statistical, population-level account for an individual-level, causal account of naturalselection (Bouchard and (...) Rosenberg ). I argue that each of these positions is right in one way, but wrong in another; naturalselection indeed takes place at the level of populations, but it is a causal process nonetheless. (shrink)
This paper investigates the conception of causation required in order to make sense of naturalselection as a causal explanation of changes in traits or allele frequencies. It claims that under a counterfactual account of causation, naturalselection is constituted by the causal relevance of traits and alleles to the variation in traits and alleles frequencies. The “statisticalist” view of selection (Walsh, Matthen, Ariew, Lewens) has shown that naturalselection is not a cause (...) superadded to the causal interactions between individual organisms. It also claimed that the only causation at work is those aggregated individual interactions, naturalselection being only predictive and explanatory, but it is implicitly committed to a process-view of causation. I formulate a counterfactual construal of the causal statements underlying selectionist explanations, and show that they hold because of the reference they make to ecological reliable factors. Considering case studies, I argue that this counterfactual view of causal relevance proper to naturalselection captures more salient features of evolutionary explanations than the statisticalist view, and especially makes sense of the difference between selection and drift. I eventually establish equivalence between causal relevance of traits and naturalselection itself as a cause. (shrink)
Sober 2011 argues that, contrary to Hume, some causal statements can be known a priori to be true?notably, some ?would promote? statements figuring in causal models of naturalselection. We find Sober's argument unconvincing. We regard the Humean thesis as denying that causal explanations contain any a priori knowable statements specifying certain features of events to be causally relevant. We argue that not every ?would promote? statement is genuinely causal, and we suggest that Sober has not shown that (...) his examples of ?would promote? statements manage to achieve a priori status without sacrificing their causal character. (shrink)
We argue that a fashionable interpretation of the theory of naturalselection as a claim exclusively about populations is mistaken. The interpretation rests on adopting an analysis of fitness as a probabilistic propensity which cannot be substantiated, draws parallels with thermodynamics which are without foundations, and fails to do justice to the fundamental distinction between drift and selection. This distinction requires a notion of fitness as a pairwise comparison between individuals taken two at a time, and so (...) vitiates the interpretation of the theory as one about populations exclusively. (shrink)
Biologists are increasingly reexamining the conceptual structure of evolutionary theory, which dates back to the so-called Modern Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s. Calls for an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) cite a number of empir- ical and theoretical advances that need to be accounted for, including evolvability, evo- lutionary novelties, capacitors of phenotypic evolution, developmental plasticity, and phenotypic attractors. In Biological Emergences, however, Robert Reid outlines a theory of evolution in which naturalselection plays no role or—worse—actually impedes (...) evo- lution by what Reid calls “natural experimentation.” For Reid, biological complexity emerges because of intrinsic mechanisms that work in opposition to naturalselection, a view that would reopen old questions of orthogenesis and Lamarckism.This review outlines why we do need an EES, but also why it is unlikely to take the shape that Reid advocates. (shrink)
The thesis that naturalselection explains the frequencies of traits in populations, but not why individual organisms have the traits tehy do, is here defended and elaborated. A general concept of ‘distributive explanation’ is discussed.
In this paper, I answer a fundamental question facing any view according to which naturalselection is a population‐level causal process—namely, how is the causal process of naturalselection related to, yet not preempted by, causal processes that occur at the level of individual organisms? Without an answer to this grounding question, the population‐level causal view appears unstable—collapsing into either an individual‐level causal interpretation or the claim that selection is a purely formal, statistical phenomenon. I (...) argue that a causal account of realization provides an answer to the grounding question. By applying this account of realization to the naturalselection of melanism in rock pocket mice, I show how an alternative, formal account of realization, favored by proponents of the statistical interpretation, misses biologically important features. More generally, this paper shows how metaphysical issues about realization normally discussed in the philosophy of mind apply to debates in philosophy of biology. Thus, it is a first step toward fleshing out the oft‐noted similarities between debates in these areas. (shrink)
I have recently argued that origin essentialism regarding individual organisms entails that naturalselection does not explain why individual organisms have the traits that they do. This paper defends this and related theses against Mohan Matthen's recent objections.
Skipper and Millstein (2005) argued that existing conceptions of mechanisms failed to "get at" naturalselection, but left open the possibility that a refined conception of mechanisms could resolve the problems that they identified. I respond to Skipper and Millstein, and argue that while many of their points have merit, their objections can be overcome and that naturalselection can be characterized as a mechanism. In making this argument, I discuss the role of regularity in mechanisms, (...) and develop an account of stochastic (i.e., probabilistic) mechanisms. Explaining the phenomenon of adaptation through the mechanism of naturalselection illustrates the power and flexibility of using mechanistic strategies to explain natural phenomena. (shrink)
‘Naturalselection’ is, it seems, an ambiguous term. It is sometimes held to denote a consequence of variation, heredity, and environment, while at other times as denoting a force that creates adaptations. I argue that the latter, the force interpretation, is a redundant notion of naturalselection. I will point to difficulties in making sense of this linguistic practise, and argue that it is frequently at odds with standard interpretations of evolutionary theory. I provide examples to (...) show this; one example involving the relation between adaptations and other traits, and a second involving the relation between selection and drift. (shrink)
Is logic, feasibly, a product of naturalselection? In this paper we treat this question as dependent upon the prior question of where logic is founded. After excluding other possibilities, we conclude that logic resides in our language, in the shape of inferential rules governing the logical vocabulary of the language. This means that knowledge of (the laws of) logic is inseparable from the possession of the logical constants they govern. In this sense, logic may be seen as (...) a product of naturalselection: the emergence of logic requires the development of creatures who can wield structured languages of a specific complexity, and who are capable of putting the languages to use within specific discursive practices. (shrink)
Recent papers by a number of philosophers have been concerned with the question of whether naturalselection is a causal process, and if it is, whether the causes of selection are properties of individuals or properties of populations. I shall argue that much confusion in this debate arises because of a failure to distinguish between causal productivity and causal relevance. Causal productivity is a relation that holds between events connected via continuous causal processes, while causal relevance is (...) a relationship that can hold between a variety of different kinds of facts and the events that counterfactually depend upon them. I shall argue that the productive character of naturalselection derives from the aggregation of individual processes in which organisms live, reproduce and die. At the same time, a causal explanation of the distribution of traits will necessarily appeal both to causally relevant properties of individuals and to causally relevant properties that exist only at the level of the population. (shrink)
Stephen Jay Gould argued that replaying the “tape of life” would result in a radically different evolutionary outcome. Some biologists and philosophers, however, have pointed to convergent evolution as evidence for robust replicability in macroevolution. These authors interpret homoplasy, or the independent origination of similar biological forms, as evidence for the power of naturalselection to guide form toward certain morphological attractors, notwithstanding the diversionary tendencies of drift and the constraints of phylogenetic inertia. In this paper, I consider (...) the implications of homoplasy for the debate over the nature of macroevolution. I argue that once the concepts of contingency and convergence are fleshed out, it becomes clear that many instances of homoplasy fail to negate Gould’s overarching thesis, and may in fact support a Gouldian view of life. My argument rests on the distinction between parallelism and convergence, which I defend against a recent challenge from developmental biology. I conclude that despite the difficulties in defining and identifying parallelism, the concept remains useful and relevant to the contingency controversy insofar as it underscores the common developmental origins of iterated evolution. (shrink)
In this paper, we compare the mechanisms of protein synthesis and naturalselection. We identify three core elements of mechanistic explanation: functional individuation, hierarchical nestedness or decomposition, and organization. These are now well understood elements of mechanistic explanation in fields such as protein synthesis, and widely accepted in the mechanisms literature. But Skipper and Millstein have argued (2005) that naturalselection is neither decomposable nor organized. This would mean that much of the current mechanisms literature does (...) not apply to the mechanism of naturalselection. (shrink)
The Darwinian concept of naturalselection was conceived within a set of Newtonian background assumptions about systems dynamics. Mendelian genetics at first did not sit well with the gradualist assumptions of the Darwinian theory. Eventually, however, Mendelism and Darwinism were fused by reformulating naturalselection in statistical terms. This reflected a shift to a more probabilistic set of background assumptions based upon Boltzmannian systems dynamics. Recent developments in molecular genetics and paleontology have put pressure on Darwinism (...) once again. Current work on self-organizing systems may provide a stimulus not only for increased problem solving within the Darwinian tradition, especially with respect to origins of life, developmental genetics, phylogenetic pattern, and energy-flow ecology, but for deeper understanding of the very phenomenon of naturalselection itself. Since self-organizational phenomena depend deeply on stochastic processes, self-organizational systems dynamics advance the probability revolution. In our view, naturalselection is an emergent phenomenon of physical and chemical selection. These developments suggest that naturalselection may be grounded in physical law more deeply than is allowed by advocates of the autonomy of biology, while still making it possible to deny, with autonomists, that evolutionary explanations can be modeled in terms of a deductive relationship between laws and cases. We explore the relationship between, chance, self-organization, and selection as sources of order in biological systems in order to make these points. (shrink)
One controversy about the existence of so called evolutionary forces such as naturalselection and random genetic drift concerns the sense in which such “forces” can be said to interact. In this paper I explain how naturalselection and random drift can interact. In particular, I show how population-level probabilities can be derived from individual-level probabilities, and explain the sense in which naturalselection and drift are embodied in these population-level probabilities. I argue that (...) whatever causal character the individual-level probabilities have is then shared by the population-level probabilities, and that naturalselection and random drift then have that same causal character. Moreover, naturalselection and drift can then be viewed as two aspects of probability distributions over frequencies in populations of organisms. My characterization of population-level probabilities is largely neutral about what interpretation of probability is required, allowing my approach to support various positions on biological probabilities, including those which give biological probabilities one or another sort of causal character. ‡This paper has benefited from feedback on and discussions of this and earlier work. I want to thank André Ariew, Matt Barker, Lindley Darden, Patrick Forber, Nancy Hall, Mohan Matthen, Samir Okasha, Jeremy Pober, Robert Richardson, Alex Rosenberg, Eric Seidel, Denis Walsh, and Bill Wimsatt. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HB 414A, 900 13th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294-1260; e-mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
We attempt a conclusive resolution of the debate over whether the principle of naturalselection (PNS), especially conceived as the `principle' of the `survival of the fittest', is a tautology. This debate has been largely ignored for the past 15 years but not, we think, because it has actually been settled. We begin by describing the tautology objection, and situating the problem in the philosophical and biology literature. We then demonstrate the inadequacy of six prima facie plausible reasons (...) for believing that the tautology debate has been satisfactorily resolved (the PNS is strictly a methodological principle; scientific theories can contain tautologies; the scope of the PNS has been reduced; theories should be understood as models and not exceptionless laws; the widespread acceptance of the propensity interpretation of fitness; and the abandonment of operationalism and verificationism). We proceed to a detailed discussion of Brandon's law (D) describing the PNS, and show that law (D) seriously misrepresents the structure of evolution by naturalselection. In the final sections, we provide and defend a novel reinterpretation of the structure of the principle (or, we prefer, model) of evolution by naturalselection. (shrink)
This paper provides a philosophical analysis of the ongoing controversy surrounding R.A. Fisher's famous fundamental theorem of naturalselection. The difference between the traditional and modern interpretations of the theorem is explained. I argue that proponents of the modern interpretation have captured Fisher's intended meaning correctly and shown that the theorem is mathematically correct, pace the traditional consensus. However, whether the theorem has any real biological significance remains an unresolved issue. I argue that the answer depends on whether (...) we accept Fisher's non-standard notion of environmental change, on which the theorem rests; arguments for and against this notion are explored. I suggest that there is a close link between Fisher's fundamental theorem and the modern gene's eye view of evolution. Introduction What Does the Fundamental Theorem Say? Key Concepts Explained Alleged Significance of the FTNS Traditional versus Modern Interpretations of the FTNS The Modern Interpretation Illustrated Fisher's Concept of Environmental Change Causality and the Modern Interpretation The Significance of the FTNS Re-considered Appendix CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Building on work by Popper, Schweber, Nozick, Sober, and others in a still-growing literature, I explore here the conceptual kinship (not the hackneyed ideological association) between Adam Smith''s ''invisible hand'' and Darwinian naturalselection. I review the historical ties, and examine Ullman-Margalit''s ''constraints'' on invisible-hand accounts, which I later re-apply to naturalselection, bringing home the close relationship. These theories share a ''parent'' principle, itself neither biological no politico-economic, that collective order and well-being can emerge (...) parsimoniously from the dispersed (inter)action of individuals. The invisible hand operates on ''memes'' the way naturalselection operates on genes. Like Darwin''s concept, it brings together traditional opposites, ''nature'' and ''selection,'' forming a saltation-mitigating transition between biological instinct and full-blown conscious design. Herschel''s criterion of confirmation, which Darwin long strove to satisfy, is itself an invisible hand-like meme – a ''Midas effect'' revealing and rewarding the fittest theories, Darwin''s and Smith''s emphatically among them. (shrink)
Susan Mills and John Beatty proposed a propensity interpretation of fitness (1979) to show that Darwinian explanations are not circular, but they did not address the critics' chief complaint that the principle of the survival of the fittest is either tautological or untestable. I show that the propensity interpretation cannot rescue the principle from the critics' charges. The critics, however, incorrectly assume that there is nothing more to Darwin's theory than the survival of the fittest. While Darwinians all scoff at (...) this assumption, they do not agree about what role, if any, this principle plays in Darwin's theory of naturalselection. I argue that the principle has no place in Darwin's theory. His theory does include the idea that some organisms are fitter than others. But greater reproductive success is simply inferred from higher fitness. There is no reason to embody this inference in the form of a special principle of the survival of the fittest. (shrink)
For many years, biology was largely descriptive (natural history), but with its emergence as a scientific discipline in its own right, a reductionist approach began, which has failed to be matched by adequate understanding of function of cells, organisms and species as whole entities. Every effort was made to explain biological phenomena in physico-chemical terms.It is argued that there is and always has been a clear distinction between life sciences and physical sciences, explicit in the use of the word (...) biology. If this distinction is real, it implies that biological phenomena can never be entirely satisfactorily explained in terms of extant physicochemical laws. One notable manifestation of this is that living organisms appear to -- actually do -- behave in purposeful ways, and the inanimate universe does not. While this fundamental difference continues to be suppressed, the purposiveness (or teleology) which pervades biology remains anathema to almost all scientists (including most biologists) even to the present day. We argue here that it can, however, become a perfectly tenable position when the Theory of NaturalSelection is accepted as the main foundation, the essential tenet, of biology that distinguishes it from the realm of physical sciences. In accepting this position, it remains quite legitimate to expect that in many but not all circumstances, extant physical laws (and presumably others still to be discovered) are in no way breached by biological systems, which cannot be otherwise since all organisms are composed of physical material. (shrink)
Darwin's theory of evolution by naturalselection provided the first, and only, causal-mechanistic account of the existence of adaptations in nature. As such, it provided the first, and only, scientific alternative to the “argument from design”. That alone would account for its philosophical significance. But the theory also raises other philosophical questions not encountered in the study of the theories of physics. Unfortunately the concept of naturalselection is intimately intertwined with the other basic concepts of (...) evolutionary theory—such as the concepts of fitness and adaptation —that are themselves philosophically controversial. Fortunately we can make considerable headway in getting clear on naturalselection without solving all of those outstanding problems. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against Sober's claim that naturalselection does not explain the traits of individuals. Sober argues that naturalselection only explains the distribution of traits in a population. My point is that the explanation of an individual's traits involves us in a description of the individual's ancestry, and in an explanation of the distribution of traits in that ancestral population. Thus Sober is wrong, naturalselection is part of the explanation (...) of the traits of individuals. (shrink)
We explore the evidential relationships that connect two standard claims of modern evolutionary biology. The hypothesis of common ancestry (which says that all organisms now on earth trace back to a single progenitor) and the hypothesis of naturalselection (which says that naturalselection has been an important influence on the traits exhibited by organisms) are logically independent; however, this leaves open whether testing one requires assumptions about the status of the other. Darwin noted that an (...) extreme version of adaptationism would undercut the possibility of making inferences about common ancestry. Here we develop a converse claim—hypotheses that assert that naturalselection has been an important influence on trait values are untestable unless supplemented by suitable background assumptions. The fact of common ancestry and a claim about quantitative genetics together suffice to render such hypotheses testable. Furthermore, we see no plausible alternative to these assumptions; we hypothesize that they are necessary as well as sufficient for adaptive hypotheses to be tested. This point has important implications for biological practice, since biologists standardly assume that adaptive hypotheses predict trait associations among tip species. Another consequence is that adaptive hypotheses cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed by a trait value that is universal within a single species, if that trait value deviates even slightly from the optimum. 1 Two Darwinian hypotheses 2 Logical independence 3 How adaptive hypotheses bear on the tree of life hypothesis 4 How the tree of life hypothesis bears on adaptive hypotheses 5 What do adaptive hypotheses predict? 6 Common ancestry and quantitative genetics to the rescue 7 Conclusion. (shrink)
Abstract. Since Darwin, scholars have contemplated what our growing understanding of naturalselection, combined with the fact that great suffering occurs, allows us to infer about the possibility that a benevolent God created the universe. Building on this long line of thought, I develop a model that illustrates how undesirable characteristics of the world (stylized “evils”) can influence long-run outcomes. More specifically, the model considers an evolutionary process in which each generation faces a risk from a “natural (...) evil” (e.g., predation, disease, or a natural disaster) subsequent to a basic resource allocation game. This allows both resource allocation and the natural evil to influence the number of surviving offspring. As the model shows, when the risk from the natural evil can be mitigated through the benevolent behavior of neighbors, the population may have increasing benevolence as a result of (1) greater risk from the natural evil and (2) a greater degree to which selfish individuals transfer resources to themselves in the resource allocation game. The main implication is that a world with evolutionary processes (in contrast to a world of static design) can allow two factors that have traditionally been considered “evils”—namely, the indiscriminate cruelty of the natural world and the capacity for humans to harm each other—to promote desirable long-run outcomes. (shrink)
The following describes one distinct sense of ‘mechanism’ which is prevalent in biology and biomedicine and which has important epistemic benefits. According to this sense, mechanisms are defined by the functions they facilitate. This construal has two important implications. Firstly, mechanisms that facilitate functions are capable of breaking. Secondly, on this construal, there are rigid constraints on the sorts of phenomena ‘for which’ there can be a mechanism. In this sense, there are no ‘mechanisms for’ pathology, and natural (...) class='Hi'>selection is not a ‘mechanism of’ evolution, because it does not serve a function. (shrink)
Ever since the publication of Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, a book for the lay reader that popularized the ideas of influential evolutionary biologists like William Hamilton and George Williams, there has been much discussion of so-called "universal Darwinism". Dawkins' dual aim was to reduce evolutionary phenomena to the level of the gene, while at the same time abstracting the Darwinian process of naturalselection of "replicators" and making it into something that would apply beyond the domain of (...) biology. (shrink)
The improbability of a spontaneously generated self-assembling molecule has suggested that life began with a set of simpler, collectively replicating elements, such as an enclosed autocatalytic set of polymers (or autocell). Since replication occurs without a self-assembly code, acquired characteristics are inherited. Moreover, there is no strict distinction between alive and dead; one can only infer that an autocell was alive if it replicates. These features of early life render naturalselection inapplicable to the description of its change-of-state (...) because they defy its underlying assumptions. Moreover, naturalselection describes only randomly generated novelty; it cannot describe the emergence of form at the interface between organism and environment. Self-organization is also inadequate because it is restricted to interactions amongst parts; it too cannot account for context-driven change. A modified version of selection theory or self-organization would not work because the description of change-of-state through interaction with an incompletely specified context has a completely different mathematical structure, i.e. entails a non-Kolmogorovian probability model. It is proposed that the evolution of early life is appropriately described as lineage transformation through context-driven actualization of potential, with self-organized change-of-state being a special case of no contextual influence, and competitive exclusion of less fit individuals through a selection-like process possibly (but not necessarily) playing a secondary role. It is argued that naturalselection played an important role in evolution only after genetically mediated replication was established. (shrink)
Kary (1990) defends the view that evolution by naturalselection can be adequately explained in terms of a theory incorporating only a single level of selection. Here I point out some of the inherent inadequacies of such a theory.
We argue that a fashionable interpretation of the theory of naturalselection as a claim exclusively about populations is mistaken. The interpretation rests on adopting an analysis of fitness as a probabilistic propensity which cannot be substantiated, draws parallels with thermodynamics which are without foundations, and fails to do justice to the fundamental distinction between drift and selection. This distinction requires a notion of fitness as a pairwise comparison between individuals taken two at a time, and so (...) vitiates the interpretation of the theory as one about populations exclusively. (shrink)
Social learning mechanisms are usually assumed to explain both the spread and the persistence of cultural behaviour. In a recent article, we showed that the fidelity of social learning commonly found in transmission chain experiments is not high enough to explain cultural stability. Here we want to both enrich and qualify this conclusion by looking at the case of song transmission in song birds, which can be faithful to the point of being true replication. We argue that this high fidelity (...) results from naturalselection pressure on cognitive mechanisms. This observation strengthens our main argument. Social learning mechanisms are unlikely to be faithful enough to explain cultural stability because they are generally selected not for high fidelity but for generalisation and adjustment to the individual’s needs, capacities and situation. (shrink)
Darwin’s theory of evolution by naturalselection is central to modern biology, but is resisted by many people. This paper discusses the major psychological obstacles to accepting Darwin’s theory. Cognitive obstacles to adopting evolution by naturalselection include conceptual difﬁculties, methodological issues, and coherence problems that derive from the intuitiveness of alternative theories. The main emotional obstacles to accepting evolution are its apparent conﬂict with valued beliefs about God, souls, and morality. We draw on the philosophy (...) of science and on a psychological theory of cognitive and emotional belief revision to make suggestions about what can be done to improve acceptance of Darwinian ideas. (shrink)
he following kind of incident has occurred over and over again, ever since Darwin. An evolutionist, browsing through some pre-Darwinian tome in natural history, comes upon a description of naturalselection. Aha, he says; I have found something important, a proof that Darwin wasn't original. Perhaps I have even discovered a source of direct and nefarious pilfering by Darwin! In the most notorious of these claims, the great anthropologist and writer Loren Eiseley thought that he had detected (...) such an anticipation in the writings of Edward Blyth. Eiseley laboriously worked through the evidence that Darwin had read (and used) Blyth's work and, making a crucial etymological mistake along the way, finally charged that Darwin may have pinched the central idea for his theory from Blyth. He published his case in a long article (Eiseley, 1959), later expanded by his executors into a posthumous volume entitled "Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X" (1979). (shrink)
When social scientists began employing evolutionary game theory (EGT) in their disciplines, the question arose what the appropriate interpretation of the formal EGT framework would be. Social scientists have given different answer, of which I distinguish three basic kinds. I then proceed to uncover the conceptual tension between the formal framework of EGT, its application in the social sciences, and these three interpretations. First, I argue that EGT under the biological interpretation has a limited application in the social sciences, chiefly (...) because strategy replication often cannot be sensibly interpreted as strategy bearer reproduction in this domain. Second, I show that alternative replication mechanisms imply interpersonal comparability of strategy payoffs. Giving a meaningful interpretation to such comparisons is not an easy task for many social situations, and thus limits the applicability of EGT in this domain. Third, I argue that giving a new interpretation both to strategy replication and selection solves the issue of interpersonal comparability, but at the costs of making the new interpretation incompatible with naturalselection interpretations of EGT. To the extent that social scientists seek such a naturalselection interpretation, they face a dilemma: either face the challenge that interpersonal comparisons pose, or give up on the naturalselection interpretation. By identifying these tensions, my analysis pleas for greater awareness of the specific purposes of EGT modelling in the social sciences, and for greater sensitivity to the underlying microstructure on which the evolutionary dynamics and other EGT solution concepts supervene. (shrink)
A deflationary perspective on theories of cultural evolution, in particular dual-inheritance theory, has recently been proposed by Lewens. On this ‘pop-culture’ analysis, dual-inheritance theorists apply population thinking to cultural phenomena, without claiming that cultural items evolve by naturalselection. This paper argues against this pop-culture analysis of dual-inheritance theory. First, it focuses on recent dual-inheritance models of specific patterns of cultural change. These models exemplify population thinking without a commitment to naturalselection of cultural items. There (...) are grounds, however, for doubting the added explanatory value of the models in their disciplinary context—and thus grounds for engaging in other potentially explanatory projects based on dual-inheritance theory. One such project is suggested by advocates of the theory. Some of the motivational narratives that they offer can be interpreted as setting up an adaptationist project with regard to cumulative change in cultural items. We develop this interpretation here. On it, dual-inheritance theory features two interrelated selection processes, one on the level of genetically inherited learning mechanisms, another on the level of the cultural items transmitted through these mechanisms. This interpretation identifies a need for further modelling efforts, but also offers scope for enhancing the explanatory power of dual-inheritance theory. (shrink)
Recent discussion of mechanism has suggested new approaches to several issues in the philosophy of science, including theory structure, causal explanation, and reductionism. Here, I apply what I take to be the fruits of the 'new mechanical philosophy' to an analysis of a contemporary debate in evolutionary biology about the role of naturalselection in speciation. Traditional accounts of that debate focus on the geographic context of genetic divergence--namely, whether divergence in the absence of geographic isolation is possible (...) (or significant). Those accounts are at best incomplete, I argue, because they ignore the mechanisms producing divergence and miss what is at stake in the biological debate. I argue that the biological debate instead concerns the scope of particular speciation mechanisms which assign different roles to naturalselection at various stages of divergence. The upshot is a new interpretation of the crux of that debate--namely, whether divergence with gene flow is possible (or significant) and whether the isolating mechanisms producing it are adaptive. (shrink)
According to Darwinism, biological evolution proceeds without discernible plan or purpose. To be sure, biological evolution produces things that look planned or purposed. But what underlies Darwinian evolution ultimately is a blind mechanical process -- the Darwinian mechanism of naturalselection.
Since the introduction of mathematical population genetics, its machinery has shaped our fundamental understanding of naturalselection. Selection is taken to occur when differential fitnesses produce differential rates of reproductive success, where fitnesses are understood as parameters in a population genetics model. To understand selection is to understand what these parameter values measure and how differences in them lead to frequency changes. I argue that this traditional view is mistaken. The descriptions of naturalselection (...) rendered by population genetics models are in general neither predictive nor explanatory and introduce avoidable conceptual confusions. I conclude that a correct understanding of naturalselection requires explicitly causal models of reproductive success. *Received May 2006; revised December 2006. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Kansas State University, 201 Dickens Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . (shrink)
A novel thermodynamic perspective on naturalselection is presented. In the case that life continuity is optimized in an ideal system, where relatively constant and homogeneous selective pressures favour a given competing species, naturalselection leads that system to a stationary state of maximum genotypic uniformity of life and maximum sustainable consumption of available energy by life (competitive equilibrium). Structurally and functionally, this optimizing tendency towards competitive equilibrium looks similar to the optimizing tendency towards thermodynamic equilibrium (...) of classical thermodynamics (maximum energetic uniformity and maximum degradation of available energy). The principle of competitive exclusion may thus be conceptually viewed as an ecological manifestation of the second law of (classical) thermodynamics. On the other hand, the novel thermodynamic perspective on naturalselection is discussed with regard to the open and nonequilibrium system of nature, where selective pressures vary in space and time. In this case, naturalselection can induce diversity instead of uniformity, though an optimizing tendendcy towards maximum sustainable consumption of resources (optimization of life continuity) always remains. Overall, it is concluded that the action of naturalselection favours the maximization of the sustainable consumption of energy at the level of individual organism. (shrink)
The beanbag genetics controversy can be traced from the dispute between Fisher and Wright, through Mayr''s influential promotion of the issue, to the contemporary units of selection debate. It centers on the claim that genic models of naturalselection break down in the face of epistatic interactions among genes during phenotypic development. This claim is explored from both a conceptual and a quantitative point of view, and is shown to be defective on both counts.Firstly, an analysis of (...) the controversy''s theoretical origins demonstrates that this claim derives from a misinterpretation of the conceptual foundations of Fisher''s genetical theory of naturalselection, and confounds his fundamentally different concepts of the average excess and average effect of a gene. Secondly, an extension of the genic approach is proposed which models the dynamics of selection among epistatically interacting complexes of many genes. Paradoxically, this preliminary, but fundamentally genic model provides quantitative support for some controversial qualitative claims regarding the evolutionary consequences of strong gene interactions made by opponents of genic selectionism, including Mayr''s theory of peripartric speciation. These findings foster hope that the proposed approach may eventually nudge the beanbag controversy out of its conceptual trenches into a more empirically oriented dialogue. (shrink)
Both biologists and philosophers often make use of simple verbal formulations of necessary and sufficient conditions for evolution by naturalselection (ENS). Such summaries go back to Darwin's Origin of Species (especially the "Recapitulation"), but recent ones are more compact.1 Perhaps the most commonly cited formulation is due to Lewontin.2 These summaries tend to have three or four conditions, where the core requirement is a combination of variation, heredity, and fitness differences. The summaries are employed in several ways. (...) First, they are often used in pedagogical contexts, and in showing the coherence of evolutionary theory in response to attacks from outside biology. Second, they are important in discussions of extensions of evolutionary principles to new domains, such as cultural change. The summaries also have intrinsic scientific and philosophical interest as attempts to capture some core principles of evolutionary theory in a highly concise way. Despite their prominence, both the proper formulation and status of these summaries are unclear. Standard formulations are subject to counterexamples, and their relations to formal models of evolutionary change are not straightforward. Here I look closely at these verbal summaries, and at how they relate to formal models. Are the summaries merely rough approximations that have no theoretical role of their own? Perhaps they could operate as theoretical statements in Darwin's time, but have now been superseded by more exact treatments. (shrink)
When naturalselection theory was presented, much active philosophical debate, in which Darwin himself participated, centered on its hypothetical nature, its explanatory power, and Darwin's methodology. Upon first examination, Darwin's support of his theory seems to consist of a set of claims pertaining to various aspects of explanatory success. I analyze the support of his method and theory given in the Origin of Species and private correspondence, and conclude that an interpretation focusing on the explanatory strengths of (...) class='Hi'>naturalselection theory accurately reflects neither Darwin's own self-consciously held views, nor the nature of his support. Darwin's methodological and philosophical arguments were at once consistently empiricist and more sophisticated than such interpretations credit to him. (shrink)
In his (1984) John Beatty correctly identifies the issue of the role of chance in evolution as one of the liveliest disputes in evolutionary biology. He argues, on the basis of a carefully articulated example, that "Even on a proper construal of 'naturalselection', it is difficult to distinguish between the 'improbable results of naturalselection' and evolution by random drift". His other remarks indicate that he is thinking of conceptual as well as practical indistinguishability. In (...) this discussion I take issue with one of the consequences Beatty draws from his example. I argue that the example at most shows that the effects of drift and selection are sometimes difficult to separate in practice, but that the stronger conceptual claim is not warranted. The deeper problems raised by the example are seen to demand causal, rather then conceptual, analysis. (shrink)
Accounts of the concepts of function and dysfunction have not adequately explained what factors determine the line between low‐normal function and dysfunction. I call the challenge of doing so the line‐drawing problem. Previous approaches emphasize facts involving the action of naturalselection (Wakefield 1992a, 1999a, 1999b) or the statistical distribution of levels of functioning in the current population (Boorse 1977, 1997). I point out limitations of these two approaches and present a solution to the line‐drawing problem that builds (...) on the second one. (shrink)
Principles of Brain Evolution (Striedter 2005) places little emphasis on naturalselection. However, one cannot fully appreciate the diversity of brains across species, nor the evolutionary processes driving such diversity, without an understanding of the effects of naturalselection. Had Striedter included more extensive discussions about naturalselection, his text would have been more balanced and comprehensive.
Naturalselection in the sense of Darwin always means physical propagation (positive case) or disappearance (negative case) of living organisms due to differential reproduction. If one concentrates on this simple materialist principle, one arrives at a much better method of discerning true selection processes from largely nonrandom processes of internal rearrangement (somatic mutations) and reorganisation (operant learning).
It is argued that too logical a mind is not favored by naturalselection; rather, it is biologically useful to be able to rationalize away certain unpleasant aspects of reality. In most cases this irrationality has to do either with our reproductive ideas or with our ways of viewing the future. In both cases the implications with regard to our ability to solve the current population growth/resource shrinkage crisis are decidedly negative. Looked at from a slightly different perspective, (...) this same phenomenon can be viewed as a selection among ideas and beliefs. Sometimes this selection is quite intense. Indeed, there are certain ideas which the human mind simply cannot logically deal with, since if they should be true, then it is obvious that evolution will direct all its resources toward producing minds which will believe them to be false. An example of such an idea is discussed. (shrink)
The effects of naturalselection as a process in natural populations differs from ''survival of the fittest'' as it was formulated by Darwin in his ''Origin of Species''. The environment of a population exists of continuous changing conditions, which are heterogeneous in space. During its life each individual successively meets with differing conditions. During these confrontations the individual may appear to be ''unfit'' or ''unlucky'' and may die. If it survives it will meet the following conditions to (...) which it is ''tested'' anew, a.s.o. Hence, many individuals being less fit under certain conditions will survive and reproduce, because they did not meet a deadly moment. Therefore, being ''fit'' only refers to special prevalent conditions. In each generation the individuals thus being ''unfit'' will be eliminated together with the ''unlucky'' ones. All other individuals will survive and reproduce, notwithstanding their properties.Hence, naturalselection results in the ''non-survival of the non-fit'' rather than in ''survival of the fittest'', because being ''fit'' simply means ''having survived and reproduced'', whereas being ''unfit'' can be connected with many kinds of properties and environmental conditions, e.g. being killed by a predator. Only after many generations (hundreds or even thousands) the effect of eventually dominating properties of the survivors may result in a set of properties suggesting an overall ''survival of the fittest''. This was what Darwin wanted to explain as he was mainly interested in evolutionary processes. (shrink)
On a common view of evolution, naturalselection is the major force that produces evolutionary change. Selection is thought to operate on different types (genotypes or phenotypes) in populations so as to generate differential reproductive survival of these types. This should engender changes in population composition. The conception of selection as a "force" should be considered as a convenient shorthand that easily misleads us. Selection is not a factor over and above items such as temperature (...) regimes, predators, and so forth. These items do causal work in evolutionary processes. The term "selection" is merely an abstract placeholder for them. Differential reproductive survival thus appears to depend on particular environmental items that influence different types in different ways. Such items are properly regarded as the selective agents. On the face of it, selection processes must always be due to the operation of such agents. I argue that this is a mistaken assumption. Processes of selection may well occur in the absence of selective agents. That is because environmental factors may contribute to differential reproductive survival even if they do not affect different genotypes or phenotypes in different ways. Considering the role of the environment in selection, we should distinguish between selective agents and contributive agents. (shrink)
Recent discussion of mechanism has suggested new approaches to several issues in the philosophy of science, including theory structure, causal explanation, and reductionism. Here, I apply what I take to be the fruits of the Ônew mechanical philosophyÕ to an analysis of a contemporary debate in evolutionary biology about the role of naturalselection in speciation. Traditional accounts of that debate focus on the geographic context of genetic divergence— namely, whether divergence in the absence of geographic isolation is (...) possible (or signiﬁcant). Those accounts are at best incomplete, I argue, because they ignore the mechanisms producing divergence and miss what is at stake in the biological debate. I argue that the biological debate instead concerns the scope of particular speciation mechanisms which assign diﬀerent roles to naturalselection at various stages of divergence. The upshot is a new interpretation of the crux of that debate—namely, whether divergence with gene ﬂow is possible (or signiﬁcant) and whether the isolating mechanisms producing it are adaptive. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
The historical origin and the experimental basis of the concept of physical determinism indicate that this basis was removed with the acceptance of the kinetic theory of matter, while its difficulties are increased by the admission that human nature, in its entirety, is a product of natural causation. An indeterministic view of causation has the advantages (a) of unifying the concept of natural law in different spheres of human experience and (b) of a greater generality, which precludes the (...) acceptance of the special case of completely deterministic causation, so long as this is an unproved assumption. It is not inconsistent with the orderliness of the world, or with the fruitful pursuit of natural knowledge. It enriches rather than weakens the concept of of causation. It possesses definite advantages with respect to the one-sidedness of human memory, and to the phenomena of aiming and striving observable in man and other animals. Among biological theories it appears to be most completely in harmony with the theory of naturalselection, which in its statistical nature resembles the second law of thermo-dynamics. In an indeterministic world natural causation has a creative element, and science is interested in locating the original causes of effects of special interest, and not merely in pushing a chain of causation backwards ad infinitum. These contrasting tendencies are illustrated by a critique of the mutation theory, and by an attempt more closely to define the sense in which indeterministic causation should be thought of as creative. (shrink)
Proceedings of the Pittsburgh Workshop in History and Philosophy of Biology, Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, March 23-24 2001 Session 3: NaturalSelection as a Causal Theory.
Description of the biologicalhierarchy of the organism has been extendedhere to included the evolutionary andecological sub-hierarchies with theirrespective levels in order to give a completehierarchical description of life. These newdescriptions include direction of formation,types of constraints, and dual levels. Constraints are produced at the macromolecularlevel of genes/proteins, some of which (a) aredescendent restraints which hold a hierarchytogether and others (b) interact horizontallywith selective agents at corresponding levelsof the niche. The organism is a dual levelconstrained by both the ecologicalsub-hierarchy (survival) and (...) evolutionarysub-hierarchy (fitness) while serving as thehighest level of the specializationsub-hierarchy, therefore, it is unique inbelonging to three sub-hierarchies. Organismsexperience birth, sometimes death, andparticipate in evolution. Birth of an organismis realized when a cell is removed from theconstraints of the organism and assumes itsown organismal constraints. Death occurs withthe cessation of protein synthesis becauseproteins and their products constitutecomponents at high levels of the hierarchy. Selection is of two types, naturalselection,involving adaptive traits interacting withfeatures in a niche, and hierarchicalselection, requiring traits to be compatiblewith existing hierarchical constraints. (shrink)
Two aspects of the Eigen theory of the origin of life are separated: (i) a theory of evolution at the molecular level, and (ii) the special dynamical properties of hypercycles when that theory is applied to them. It is shown that the former can be applied to a variety of molecular systems which then satisfy Lewontin's criteria for evolution by naturalselection. This insight is used to show how, at the molecular level, this theory of natural (...) class='Hi'>selection can be used to provide physical warrants for functional explanations. The position of hypercycles in this picture and the reasons for their suitability as a model for the origin of life are also discussed. (shrink)
Implicitly, Wynn's target article starts from the transformational definition of symmetry. Unlike his suggestion, this traditional definition and the recent holographic definition are relevant to the discussion on the cognitive evolution of visual symmetries. These definitions reveal underlying properties and, thereby, they support the naturalselection hypothesis. The holographic definition even agrees with an indirect test of this hypothesis.
Naturalselection of asymmetric traits operates at multiple levels. Some asymmetric traits (like having a dominant eye) are tied to more universal aspects of the environment and are coded genetically, while others (like pedestrian turning biases) are tied to more ephemeral patterns and are largely learned. Species-wide trends of asymmetry can be better modeled when different levels of naturalselection are specified.
Sober (1992) and Brandon et al. (1994) disagree about the role of screening-off in the appraisal of theories of naturalselection. Some problems disregarded by them are unearthed in this discussion note.
The relationship between Fisher's fundamental theorem of naturalselection and the ecological environment of density regulation is examined. Using a linear model, it is shown that the theorem holds when density regulation is caused by exploitative competition and that the theorem fails with interference competition. In the latter case the theorem holds only at the limit of zero population density and/or at the limit where the competitively superior individuals cannot monopolise the resource. The results are discussed in relation (...) to population dynamics and life history evolution, where evidence suggests that the level of interference competition in natural populations is so high that the fundamental theorem does not apply. (shrink)