The present discussion of sociobiological approaches to ethnic nepotism takes Pierre van den Berghe ʼs theory as a starting point. Two points, which have not been addressed in former analyses, are considered to be of particular importance. It is argued that the behavioral mechanism of ethnic nepotism—as understood by van den Berghe—cannot explain ethnic boundaries and attitudes. In addition, I show that van den Bergheʼs central premise concerning ethnic nepotism is in contradiction to Hamiltonʼs formula, the essential principle of kin (...)selection theory. It is further discussed how other approaches that make reference to ethnic nepotism are related to van den Bergheʼs account and its problems. I conclude with remarks on the evolutionary explanation of ethnic phenomena. (shrink)
The evolution of human language, and the kind of thought the communication of which requires it, raises considerable explanatory challenges. These systems of representation constitute a radical discontinuity in the natural world. Even species closely related to our own appear incapable of either thought or talk with the recursive structure, generalized systematicity, and task-domain neutrality that characterize human talk and the thought it expresses. W. Tecumseh Fitch’s proposal (2004, in press) that human language is descended from a sexually selected, prosodic (...) proto-language that approximated its syntactic complexity, and later acquired semantics thanks to kin selection for its use as a means of pedagogical transmission, has the promise of meeting these explanatory challenges. However, Fitch’s theory raises two problems of its own: (1) according to Boyd and Richerson (1996, Proc. Br. Acad. 88: 77–93), circumstances in which pedagogy is adaptive are inevitably rare in nature, and (2) it is unlikely that our non-discursive precursors had generally systematic, task-domain neutral thoughts to communicate to their offspring. I propose solutions to these problems. Pedagogy would be favored in a population where complex rituals dominated diverse aspects of life. Prosodic proto-language could emerge as the medium of pedagogic transmission. As this medium was used to teach a greater variety of tasks, it would become increasingly general and domain neutral. The presence and importance of such a system of communication in hominid populations could then drive, via Baldwinian mechanisms, the evolution of a kind of ‘thinking for speaking’ (Slobin 1991, Pragmatics 1: 7–25) characterized by recursive structure, generalized systematicity, and task-domain neutrality. (shrink)
We demonstrate the existence of altruism via kin selection in artificial life and explore its nuances. We do so in the Avida system through a setup that is based on the behavior of colicinogenic bacteria: Organisms can kill unrelated organisms in a given radius but must kill themselves to do so. Initially, we confirm!results found in the bacterial world: Digital organisms do sacrifice themselves for their kin—an extreme example of altruism— and do so more often in structured environments, where (...) kin are always nearby, than in well-mixed environments, where the location of kin is stochastically determined. Having shown that helping one’s kin is advantageous, we turn our attention to investigating the efficacy and implications of the strategies of kincheaters, those who receive help from kin but do not return it. Contrary to the expectations of current theory, we find that kin-cheaters outcompete kin-altruists. Our results cause us to question the stability of strategies that involve altruism between kin. Knowing that kin-altruism persists in biological systems, however, we search for, and find, conditions that allow!kin-based altruism to persist in evolving!systems despite the!presence of kin-cheaters. (shrink)
I argue that evolutionary strategies of kin selection and game-theoretic reciprocity are apt to generate agent-centered and agent- neutral moral intuitions, respectively. Such intuitions are the building blocks of moral theories, resulting in a fundamental schism between agent-centered theories on the one hand and agent-neutral theories on the other. An agent-neutral moral theory is one according to which everyone has the same duties and moral aims, no matter what their personal interests or interpersonal relationships. Agent-centered moral theories deny this (...) and include at least some prescriptions that include ineliminable indexicals. I argue that there are no rational means of bridging the gap between the two types of theories; nevertheless this does not necessitate skepticism about the moral—we might instead opt for an ethical relativism in which the truth of moral statements is relativized to the perspective of moral theories on either side of the schism. Such a relativism does not mean that any ethical theory is as good as any other; some cannot be held in reflective equilibrium, and even among those that can, there may well be pragmatic reasons that motivate the selection of one theory over another. But if no sort of relativism is deemed acceptable, then it is hard to avoid moral skepticism. (shrink)
In an incendiary 2010 Nature article, M. A. Nowak, C. E. Tarnita and E. O. Wilson present a savage critique of the best known and most widely used framework for the study of social evolution, W. D. Hamilton’s theory of kin selection. Over a hundred biologists have since rallied to the theory’s defence, but Nowak et al. maintain that their arguments ‘stand unrefuted’. Here I consider the most contentious claim Nowak et al. defend: that Hamilton’s rule, the core explanatory (...) principle of kin selection theory, ‘almost never holds’. I first distinguish two versions of Hamilton’s rule in contemporary theory: a special version (HRS) that requires restrictive assumptions, and a general version (HRG) that does not. I then show that Nowak et al. are most charitably construed as arguing that HRS almost never holds, while HRG buys its generality at the expense of explanatory power. While their arguments against HRS are fairly uncontroversial, their arguments against HRG are more contentious, yet these have been largely overlooked in the ensuing furore. I consider the arguments for and against the explanatory value of HRG, with a view to assessing what exactly is at stake in the debate. I suggest that the debate hinges on issues concerning the causal interpretability of regression coefficients, and concerning the explanatory function Hamilton’s rule is intended to serve. (shrink)
Altruism is a malleable notion that is understood differently in various disciplines. The common denominator of most definitions of altruism is the idea of unidirectional helping behaviour. However, a closer examination reveals that the term altruism sometimes refers to the outcomes of a helping behaviour for the agent and its neighbours – i.e. reproductive altruism – and sometimes to what motivates the agent to help others – i.e. psychological altruism. Since these perspectives on altruism are crucially different, it is important (...) to use a clear terminology to avoid confusion. In particular, we show that the notion of altruism used by biologists profoundly differs from the ones used by philosophers, psychologists and economists in cross-disciplinary debates about human altruism. (shrink)
Here, in textbook style, is a concise biological account of the evolution of morality. It addresses morality on three levels: moral outcomes (behavioral genetics), moral motivation or intent (psychology and neurology), and moral systems (sociality). The rationale for teaching this material is addressed in Allchin (2009). Classroom resources (including accompanying images and video links) and a discussion of teaching strategies are provided online at: http://EvolutionOfMorality.net.
Abstract. Scientists have long puzzled over how homosexual orientation has evolved, given the assumed low relative fitness of homosexual individuals compared to heterosexual individuals. A number of theoretical models for the evolution of homosexuality have been postulated including balance polymorphism, "Fertile females", hypervariability of DNA sequences, kin selection, and "parental manipulation". In this paper, I propose a new group-selection model for the evolution of homosexuality which offers two advantages over existing models: (1) its non-assumption of genetic determinism, and (...) (2) its lack of dependency on an inefficient altruism relation and family dynamics theory. (shrink)
We live in interesting times. Two well-known biologists — E. O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins — and some of their well-known colleagues, who used to employ broadly similar selection models, now deeply disagree over the role of group selection in the evolution of eusociality (or so we argue). Yet they describe their models as interchangeable. As philosophers of biology, we wonder whether there is substantial (i.e., empirical) disagreement here at all, and, if there is, what is this disagreement (...) about? We argue that a substantial disagreement over the processes that caused eusociality best explains this debate, yet the common practice of using overarching definitions for “group selection” and “kin selection” renders empirical differences difficult to detect. We suggest Michael J. Wade’s use of these terms as a basis for models that reveal different selection processes. Wade’s models predict different outcomes for different processes and thus can be tested. (shrink)
On the basis of distinctions between those properties of entities that can be defined without reference to other entities and those that (in different ways) cannot, this note argues that non-trivial forms of frequency-dependent selection of entities should be interpreted as selection occurring at a level higher than that of those entities. It points out that, except in degenerately simple cases, evolutionary game-theoretic models of selection are not models of individual selection. Similarly, models of genotypic (...) class='Hi'>selection such as heterosis cannot be legitimately interpreted as models of genic selection. The analysis presented here supports the views that: (i) selection should be viewed as a multi-level process; (ii) upper-level selection is ubiquitous; (iii) kin selection should be viewed as a type of group selection rather than individual selection; and (iv) inclusive fitness is not an individual property. (shrink)
The group selection controversy largely focuses on altruism (e.g., Wilson 1983; Lloyd 2001; Shavit 2004; Okasha 2006, 173ff; Borrello 2010; Leigh 2010; Rosas 2010; Hamilton and Dimond in press). Multilevel selection theory is a resolution of this controversy. Whereas kin selection partitions inclusive fitness into direct and indirect components (via influencing the replication of copies of genes in other individuals), multilevel selection considers within-group and between-group components of fitness (Gardner et al. 2011; Lion et al. 2011). (...) Two scenarios of multilevel selection are often distinguished (Damuth and Heisler 1988; Okasha 2006; Pigliucci 2010): (1) group structure only divides individual fitnesses into within- and between-group components (MLS1); and, (2) groups get their own component of fitness and also, in most definitions, a group-level adaptation (MLS2). (shrink)
Four models commonly employed in sharing analyses (reciprocal altruism [RA], tolerated scrounging [TS], costly signaling [CS], and kin selection [KS]) have common features which render rigorous testing of unique predictions difficult. Relaxed versions of these models are discussed in an attempt to understand how the underlying principles of delayed returns, avoiding costs, building reputation, and aiding biological kin interact in systems of sharing. Special attention is given to the interpretation of contingency measures that critically define some form of reciprocal (...) altruism. (shrink)
We have argued elsewhere that: (A) Natural selection is not a cause of evolution. (B) A resolution-of-forces (or vector addition) model does not provide us with a proper understanding of how natural selection combines with other evolutionary influences. These propositions have come in for criticism recently, and here we clarify and defend them. We do so within the broad framework of our own “hierarchical realization model” of how evolutionary influences combine.
How do fitness and natural selection 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 natural selection 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 natural selection 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)
The debate about the levels of selection has been one of the most controversial both in evolutionary biology and in philosophy of science. Okasha’s book makes the sort of contribution that simply will not be able to be ignored by anyone interested in this field for many years to come. However, my interest here is in highlighting some examples of how Okasha goes about discussing his material to suggest that his book is part of an increasingly interesting trend that (...) sees scientists and philosophers coming together to build a broadened concept of “theory” through a combination of standard mathematical treatments and conceptual analyses. Given the often contentious history of the relationship between philosophy and science, such trend cannot but be welcome. (shrink)
The capacity to engage with art is a human universal present in all cultures and just about every individual human. This indicates that this capacity is evolved. In this Critical Notice of Denis Dutton's The Art Instinct, I discuss various evolutionary scenarios and their consequences. Dutton and I both reject the "spandrel" approach that originates from the work of Gould and Lewontin. Dutton proposes, following work of Geoffrey Miller, that art is sexually selected--that art-production is a sign of a fit (...) genome in males. I argue that while assortative mating may well have had a role in the evolution of "the art instinct", group selection is a better explanation. I also take issue with Dutton's "cluster concept" approach to defining art, and argue that it is a universal and essential characteristic of art that it is appreciated both for what it expresses and for the way that it expresses. It thus requires a reflexive capacity that is not operative in the appreciation of sport spectacles and pornography. (shrink)
Two controversies exist regarding the appropriate characterization of hierarchical and adaptive evolution in natural populations. In biology, there is the Wright-Fisher controversy over the relative roles of random genetic drift, natural selection, population structure, and interdemic selection in adaptive evolution begun by Sewall Wright and Ronald Aylmer Fisher. There is also the Units of Selection debate, spanning both the biological and the philosophical literature and including the impassioned groupselection debate. Why do these two discourses exist separately, and (...) interact relatively little? We postulate that the reason for this schism can be found in the differing focus of each controversy, a deep difference itself determined by distinct general styles of inquiry (e.g., Hacking 2002; Elwick 2007; Winther 2012, 2013) guiding each discourse. That is, the Wright-Fisher debate focuses on /adaptive process/, and tends to be instructed by the /mathematical modeling style/, while the focus of the Units of Selection controversy is /adaptive product/, and is typically guided by the /function style/. The differences between the two discourses can be usefully tracked by examining their interpretations of two contested strategies for theorizing hierarchical selection: /horizontal/ and /vertical/ averaging. (shrink)
This chapter defends the positive thesis which constitutes its title. It argues first, that the mind has been shaped by natural selection; 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)
DAVID HODGSON Abstract: This article supports the proposition that, if a judgment about the aesthetic merits of an artistic object can take into account and thereby be influenced by the particular quality of the object, through gestalt experiences evoked by the object, then we have free will. It argues that it is probable that such a judgment can indeed take into account and be influenced by the particular quality of the object through gestalt experiences evoked by it, so as to (...) make it probable that we do have free will. The proposition is supported by reference to two basic tricks apparently involved in conscious processes, which I call the qualia trick and the chunking trick; and it is suggested that these tricks make possible and indeed probable the existence of a third trick, which I call the selection trick. (shrink)
Does natural selection act primarily on individual organisms, on groups, on genes, or on whole species? The question of levels of selection - on which biologists and philosophers have long disagreed - is central to evolutionary theory and to the philosophy of biology. Samir Okasha's comprehensive analysis gives a clear account of the philosophical issues at stake in the current debate.
The explanatory role of natural selection 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 natural selection. In this study we attempt to examine two questions: (i) What can the theory of natural selection explain? and (ii) Is there a causal or explanatory model that integrates all natural selection explananda? For the first (...) question, we argue that five explananda have been assigned to the theory of natural selection and that four of them may be actually considered explananda of natural selection. 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 natural selection. We review the biological and philosophical disputes about the explanatory role of natural selection 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 natural selection in the generation of organismal form. Despite the currently widespread opinion that natural selection 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 ‘natural selection.’ 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 natural selection 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 natural selection can be relevant to the explanation of individual traits. (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)
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. (shrink)
Two strong arguments have been given in favor of the claim that no selection process can play a role in explaining adaptations. According to the ﬁrst argument, selection is a negative force; it may explain why the eliminated individuals are eliminated, but it does not explain why the ones that survived (or their offspring) have the traits they have. The second argument points out that the explanandum and the explanans are phenomena at different levels: selection is a (...) population-level phenomenon, whereas adaptation occurs on the individual level. Thus, selection can explain why individuals in a certain population have a certain trait, but it cannot explain why a certain indi- vidual has this trait. After pointing out that both arguments ignore the signiﬁcance of the limitation of environmental resources, I will construe a positive argument for the claim that cumulative selection processes can, indeed, play a role in explaining adaptations. (shrink)
Natural selection [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 natural selection 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)
Some naturalistic theories of consciousness give an essential role to teleology.1 This teleology is said to arise due to natural selection. 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 natural selection. 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, natural selection 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)
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) natural selection need not favor only or even primarily reliable belief-forming strategies. (shrink)
One way to understand science is as a selection process. David Hull, one of the dominant figures in contemporary philosophy of science, sets out in this volume a general analysis of this selection process that applies equally to biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens, operant learning, and social and conceptual change in science. Hull aims to distinguish between those characteristics that are contingent features of selection and those that are essential. Science and (...) class='Hi'>Selection brings together many of David Hull's most important essays on selection (some never before published) in one accessible volume. (shrink)
This paper argues in favor of the epistemic properties of inclusiveness in the context of democratic deliberative assemblies and derives the implications of this argument in terms of the epistemically superior mode of selection of representatives. The paper makes the general case that, all other things being equal and under some reasonable assumptions, more is smarter. When applied to deliberative assemblies of representatives, where there is an upper limit to the number of people that can be included in the (...) group, the argument translates into a defense of a specific selection mode of participants: random selection. (shrink)
This paper is about the reconstruction of the Darwinian Theory of Natural Selection. 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)
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 Natural Selection, 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)
No other scientific theory has had as tremendous an impact on our understanding of the world as Darwin's theory as outlined in his Origin of Species, yet from the very beginning the theory has been subject to controversy. The Evolution of Darwinism focuses on three issues of debate - the nature of selection, the nature and scope of adaptation, and the question of evolutionary progress. It traces the varying interpretations to which these issues were subjected from the beginning and (...) the fierce contemporary debates that still rage on and explores their implications for the greatest questions of all: Where we come from, who we are and where we might be heading. Written in a clear and non-technical style, this book will be of use as a textbook for students in the philosophy of science who need to become familiar with the background to the debates about evolution. (shrink)
For evolution by natural selection to occur it is classically admitted that the three ingredients of variation, difference in fitness and heredity are necessary and sufficient. In this paper, I show using simple individual-based models, that evolution by natural selection can occur in populations of entities in which neither heredity nor reproduction are present. Furthermore, I demonstrate by complexifying these models that both reproduction and heredity are predictable Darwinian products (i.e. complex adaptations) of populations initially lacking these two (...) properties but in which new variation is introduced via mutations. Later on, I show that replicators are not necessary for evolution by natural selection, but rather the ultimate product of such processes of adaptation. Finally, I assess the value of these models in three relevant domains for Darwinian evolution. (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 natural selection 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 natural selection’ 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)
The probability that the fitter of two alleles will increase in frequency in a population goes up as the product of N (the effective population size) and s (the selection coefficient) increases. Discovering the distribution of values for this product across different alleles in different populations is a very important biological task. However, biologists often use the product Ns to define a different concept; they say that drift “dominates” selection or that drift is “stronger than” selection when (...) Ns is much smaller than some threshold quantity (e.g., ½) and that the reverse is true when Ns is much larger than that threshold. We argue that the question of whether drift dominates selection for a single allele in a single population makes no sense. Selection and drift are causes of evolution, but there is no fact of the matter as to which cause is stronger in the evolution of any given allele. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to outline a typologyof selection processes, and show that differentsub-categories have different explanatorypower. The basis of this typology of selectionprocesses is argued to be the difference ofreplication processes involved in them. Inorder to show this, I argue that: 1.Replication is necessary for selection and 2.Different types of replication lead todifferent types of selection. Finally, it isargued that this typology is philosophicallysignificant, since it contrasts cases ofselection (on the basis of the replicationprocesses (...) involved in them) whereby selectioncauses adaptation – and, therefore, can beused in explanations of the (real or apparent)teleology of Nature – and cases in whichselection lacks such explanatory power. (shrink)
Matthen (Philos Sci 76(4):464–487, 2009) argues that explanations of evolutionary change that appeal to natural selection are statistically abstractive explanations, explanations that ignore some possible explanatory partitions that in fact impact the outcome. This recognition highlights a difficulty with making selective analyses fully rigorous. Natural selection is not about the details of what happens to any particular organism, nor, by extension, to the details of what happens in any particular population. Since selective accounts focus on tendencies, those factors (...) that impact the actual outcomes but do not impact the tendencies must be excluded. So, in order to properly exclude the factors irrelevant to selection, the relevant factors must be identified, and physical processes, environments, and populations individuated on the basis of being relevantly similar for the purposes of selective accounts. Natural selection, on this view, becomes in part a measure of the robustness of particular kinds of outcomes given variations over some kinds of inputs. (shrink)
The idea that clades might be units of selection, defended by a number of biologists and philosophers of biology, is critically examined. I argue that only entities which reproduce, i.e. leave offspring, can be units of selection, and that a necessary condition of reproduction is that the offspring entity be able, in principle, to outlive its parental entity. Given that clades are monophlyetic by definition, it follows that clades do not reproduce, so it makes no sense to talk (...) about a clade's fitness, so clade selection is impossible. Three possible responses to this argument are examined and found wanting. (shrink)
Individual and group selection are usually conceived as opposed evolutionary processes. Though cases of synergy are occasionally recognized, the evolutionary importance of synergy is largely ignored. However, synergy is the plausible explanation for the evolution of collectives as higher level individuals i.e., collectives acting as adaptive units, e.g., genomes and colonies of social insects. It rests on the suppression of the predictable tendency of evolutionary units to benefit at the expense of other units or of the wholes they contribute (...) to build. It plausibly explains human cooperation and morality: the molding of human groups into adaptive units. (shrink)
Instead of using only one notion of selection I argue for a broader typology of different types of selection. Three such types are differentiated, namely simple one-step selection, iterated one-step selection, and multi-step selection. It is argued that this more general and more inclusive typology might face more effectively the possible challenges of a general account of selection.
Here I advance two related evolutionary propositions. (1) Natural selection is most often considered to require competition between reproducing “individuals”, sometimes quite broadly conceived, as in cases of clonal, species or multispecies-community selection. But differential survival of non-competing and non-reproducing individuals will also result in increasing frequencies of survival-promoting “adaptations” among survivors, and thus is also a kind of natural selection. (2) Darwinists have challenged the view that the Earth’s biosphere is an evolved global homeostatic system. Since (...) there is only one biosphere, reproductive competition cannot have been involved in selection for such survival-promoting adaptations, they claim. But natural selection through survival could reconcile Gaia with evolutionary theory. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to outline a typology of selection processes, and show that different sub-categories have different explanatory power. The basis of this typology of selection processes is argued to be the difference of replication processes involved in them. In order to show this, I argue that: 1. Replication is necessary for selection and 2. Different types of replication lead to different types of selection. Finally, it is argued that this typology is philosophically (...) signiﬁcant, since it contrasts cases of selection (on the basis of the replication processes involved in them) whereby selection causes adaptation – and, therefore, can be used in explanations of the (real or apparent) teleology of Nature – and cases in which selection lacks such explanatory power. (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.
This article addresses the emergence of human personality in evolution. The mechanisms of natural and sexual selection developed by Darwin are not sufficient to explain the sense of self. Therefore we attempt to trace the evolutionary process back to a form of selection termed “emotional selection.” This involves reconstructing selection out of subjective qualities and showing how emotions enable human forms of life that are relevant for the cultural level of cooperation that marks our species. We (...) see a paradigm shift in the concept of emotional selection that binds emotion and evolution closer together, thus closing the explanatory gap between classical ethology and modern evolutionary psychology. (shrink)
The “negative view” is the claim that natural selection cannot explain why a particular individual has one trait, rather than another. Here, I modify an example from Lewens (2001) to show that this claim is sometimes false. I then advance a variation on the negative view. It is the claim that selection at the organism level within a lineage cannot explain why a particular individual in that lineage has one allele, rather than another. This formulation better describes the (...) explanatory role of selection. (shrink)
Bayesian model selection has frequently been the focus of philosophical inquiry (e.g., Forster, Br J Philos Sci 46:399–424, 1995; Bandyopadhyay and Boik, Philos Sci 66:S390–S402, 1999; Dowe et al., Br J Philos Sci 58:709–754, 2007). This paper argues that Bayesian model selection procedures are very diverse in their inferential target and their justification, and substantiates this claim by means of case studies on three selected procedures: MML, BIC and DIC. Hence, there is no tight link between Bayesian model (...)selection and Bayesian philosophy. Consequently, arguments for or against Bayesian reasoning based on properties of Bayesian model selection procedures should be treated with great caution. (shrink)
A simple and general criterion is derived for the evolution of altruism when individuals interact in pairs. It is argued that the treatment of this problem in kin selection theory and in game theory are special cases of this general criterion.
Many types of 'other-regarding' acts and beliefs cannot be accounted for satisfactorily as instances of sophisticated selfishness, altruism, team-reasoning, Kantian duty, kin selection etc. This paper argues in favour of re-inventing the notion of solidarity as an analytical category capable of shedding important new light on hitherto under-explained aspects of human motivation. Unlike altruism and natural sympathy (which turn the interests of specific others into one's own), or team-reasoning (which applies exclusively to members of some team), or Kantian duty (...) (which demands universalisable principles of action), the essence of solidarity lies in the hypothesis that people are capable of responding sympathetically to (or empathising with) a condition afflicting others, irrespectively of who those others are or whether one cares for them personally. And when that condition is a social artefact, we argue, solidarity turns radical. (shrink)
Introduction: Evolution and mind -- The evolution of morality -- Setting the task -- The moral brain -- The first layer : kin selection -- The second layer : reciprocal altruism -- A third layer : indirect reciprocity -- A fourth layer : cultural group selection -- A fifth layer : the moral emotions -- Conclusion: From moral grammar to moral systems -- The evolution of moral religions -- Setting the task -- The evolution of the religious mind (...) -- Conceptualizing the almighty -- The moral function of gods -- Evolutionary religious ethics : Judaism -- Setting the task -- Constructing Yahweh -- TheTen Commandments : an evolutionary interpretation -- Conclusion: The evolved law -- Evolutionary religious ethics : Christianity -- Setting the task -- Constructing the Christ -- Setting the boundaries : Christian and/or Jew? -- The third race : Christians as in-group -- Putting on Christ : Christianity's signals of commitment -- Loving your neighbor and turning the other cheek -- Religion, violence, and the evolved mind -- Setting the task -- Devoted to destruction : sanctified violence and Judaism -- The blood of the Lamb -- A case study in the evolved psychology of religious violence : 9/11/01 -- Religion evolving -- Setting the task -- Varieties of religious expressions -- If there were no God -- Religion, ethics, and violence : an assessment -- Responding to religion, ethics, and violence : some proposals. (shrink)
The most accessible edition ever published of Darwin’s incendiary classic, edited by “as fine a science essayist as we have” ( New York Times ) The Descent of Man , Darwin’s second landmark work on evolutionary theory (following The Origin of the Species ), marked a turning point in the history of science with its modern vision of human nature as the product of evolution. Darwin argued that the noblest features of humans, such as language and morality, were the result (...) of the same natural processes that produced iris petals and scorpion tails. To convey the revolutionary importance of this groundbreaking book, renowned evolutionary science writer Carl Zimmer edited this special abridged edition—made up of nine excerpts, each one representing one of Darwin’s major themes—and wrote illuminating introductions to each section, as well as an overall introduction. Zimmer brilliantly places Darwin’s basic ideas in the context of the current understanding of human nature and twenty-first-century DNA research. By accessibly presenting Darwin’s thinking to a modern readership, Zimmer eloquently demonstrates Darwin’s ever-increasing relevance and amazing scientific insight. (shrink)
Since the early 2000s, there has been a debate about the ?the father-covering-son? puzzle in the Analects. In this paper, I present an argument to support that a family-oriented ethics would justify the father-covering-son action; then I argue that this argument provides a perspective on this father-covering-son puzzle but does not solve the puzzle. The argument for the family-oriented ethics has two steps. The first step holds that the contemporary evolutionary theory of kin selection and moral emotions explains our (...) special attachment to our family. The second step of the argument holds that the special attachment to our family justifies our familial partiality. Combining the two steps together, one may conclude that the family-oriented ethics is justified in supporting the covering action. However, I will argue that the principle of justice may render the two-step argument less successful than it appears to be. (shrink)
Kin selection, reciprocity and group selection are widely regarded as evolutionary mechanisms capable of sustaining altruism among humans andother cooperative species. Our research indicates, however, that these mechanisms are only particular examples of a broader set of evolutionary possibilities.In this paper we present the results of a series of simple replicator simulations, run on variations of the 2–player prisoner's dilemma, designed to illustrate the wide range of scenarios under which altruism proves to be robust under evolutionary pressures. The (...) set of mechanisms we explore is divided into four categories:correlation, group selection, imitation, and punishment. We argue that correlation is the core phenomenon at work in all four categories. (shrink)
It is almost 30 years since the sociobiology controversy burst into full bloom. The modern theory of the evolution of animal behavior was born in the mid 1960’s with Bill Hamilton’s seminal papers on inclusive fitness and George William’s book Adaptation and Natural Selection. The following decade saw an avalanche of important ideas on the evolution of sex ratio, animal conflicts, parental investment, and reciprocity, setting off a revolution our understanding of animal societies, a revolution that is still going (...) on today. By the mid-1970’s, Richard Alexander, E. O. Wilson, Napoleon Chagnon, Bill Irons, and Don Symons among others began applying these ideas to understand human behavior. Humans are evolved creatures, and quite plausibly the same evolutionary forces that shaped the behavior of other animals also molded our behavior. Moreover, the new theory of animal behavior—especially, kin selection, parental investment, and optimal foraging theory—seemed fit the data on human societies fairly well. (shrink)
Morality is so steeped in the quotidian details of praise and blame, of do’s and don’t’s, and of questions about the justifiability of certain practices it is no wonder that philosophers and psychologists have devoted relatively little effort to investigating what makes moral life possible in the first place. In making this claim, I neither ignore Kant and his intellectual descendants, nor the large literature in developmental moral psychology from Piaget on. My charge has to do with this fact: (...) morality is an ineliminable feature of human life and human beings are biological creatures. Hence, what wants explaining is how a biological creature – a creature with an evolved mind/brain – can be a normative creature of a particular kind – a creature that cannot help but engage in moral appraisal and evaluation. It does no good to try to wring such an explanation from the ‘very concept’ of agency (whatever that might be), as some philosophers attempt to do. Such a strategy merely delays the inevitable: how is it that biological creatures are agents? And while we can understand the practical value of charting the trajectory of babbling infants to toddlers to adolescents to adults, absent an account of the foundations of the capacities whose emergence constitutes this trajectory, we will still not have addressed the central question. Sociobiology and evolutionary ethics fare no better. The apparent puzzle of cooperation amidst competition can and has been addressed via the notions of kin selection and reciprocal altruism. But these accounts are motivated by and hence pitched at the level of overt behavior. However, being a moral creature, in the sense that makes such entities apt subjects for deep intellectual investigation, has very little to do with whether they behave well (sometimes? often? on average? ever?) and everything to do with being capable of a certain kind of cognition.. (shrink)
The transfer of food among group members is a ubiquitous feature of small-scale forager and forager-agricultural populations. The uniqueness of pervasive sharing among humans, especially among unrelated individuals, has led researchers to evaluate numerous hypotheses about the adaptive functions and patterns of sharing in different ecologies. This article attempts to organize available cross-cultural evidence pertaining to several contentious evolutionary models: kin selection, reciprocal altruism, tolerated scrounging, and costly signaling. Debates about the relevance of these models focus primarily on the (...) extent to which individuals exert control over the distribution of foods they acquire, and the extent to which donors receive food or other fitness-enhancing benefits in return for shares given away. Each model can explain some of the variance in sharing patterns within groups, and so generalizations that ignore or deny the importance of any one model may be misleading. Careful multivariate analyses and cross-cultural comparisons of food transfer patterns are therefore necessary tools for assessing aspects of the sexual division of labor, human life history evolution, and the evolution of the family. This article also introduces a framework for better understanding variation in sharing behavior across small-scale traditional societies. I discuss the importance of resource ecology and the degree of coordination in acquisition activities as a key feature that influences sharing behavior. Key Words: behavioral ecology; cooperation; costly signaling; food sharing; foragers; reciprocal altruism. (shrink)
The paper characterizes Darwin's theory, providing a synthesis of recent historical investigations in this area. Darwin's reading of Malthus led him to appreciate the importance of population pressures, and subsequently of natural selection, with the help of the wedge metaphor. But, in itself, natural selection did not furnish an adequate account of the origin of species, for which a principle of divergence was needed. Initially, Darwin attributed this to geographical isolation, but later, following his work on barnacles which (...) underscored the significance of variation, and arising from his work on botanical arithmetic, he supposed that diversity allowed more places to be occupied in a given region. So isolation was not regarded as essential. Large regions with intense competition, and with ample variation spread by blending, would facilitate speciation. The notion of place was different from niche, and it is questioned whether Darwin's views on ecology were as modern as is commonly supposed. Two notions of struggle are found in Darwin's theory; and three notions of variation. Criticisms of his theory led him to emphasize the importance of variation over a range of forms. Hence the theory was populational rather than typological. The theory required a Lamarckian notion of inheritable changes initiated by the environment as a source of variation. Also, Darwin deployed a use/habit theory; and the notion of sexual selection. Selection normally acted at the level of the individual, though kin selection was possible. Group selection was hinted at for man. Darwin's thinking (and also the exposition of his theory) was generally guided by the domestic-organism analogy, which satisfied his methodological requirement of a vera causa principle. (shrink)
Darwin’s claim is probably guilty of pardonable exaggeration. After all he didn’t prove the origin of man, and Locke’s greatest contributions were to political philosophy, not metaphysics. But it may turn out that Darwin’s twentieth century grandchild, genomics, vindicates this claim both with respect to metaphysics and political philosophy. Here I will focus on the latter claim alone, however. From the year that William Hamilton first introduced the concept of inclusive fitness and the mechanism of kin selection, biologists, psychologists, (...) game theorists, philosophers and others have been adding details to answer the question of how altruism is possible as a biological disposition. We now have a fairly well articulated story of how we could have gotten from there– nature red in tooth and claw-- to here–an almost universal commitment to morality. That is, there is now a scenario showing how a lineage of organisms selected for maximizing genetic representation in subsequent generations could come eventually to be composed of cooperating creatures. Establishing this bare possibility was an important turning point for biological anthropology, for human sociobiology, and for evolutionary psychology. Prior to Hamilton’s breakthrough it was intellectually permissible to write off Darwinism as irrelevant to distinctively human behavior and human institutions. The unchecked contempt with which defenders of the autonomy of the social from the biological operated in their attacks on naturalistic approaches to social processes was both breath taking and without effective rejoinder.1 The major components of the research program, the models and simulations, the comparative ethology, are well known. Once Hamilton showed that inclusive fitness maximization favors the emergence of altruism towards off-spring, a virtual riot of ethological activity began to identify previously known cases of off-spring care as kin-selected, and to uncover new examples of it. Once Hamilton was joined by Axelrod in identifying circumstances under which reciprocal altruism between genetically unrelated beings would be selected for, the community of game theorists began to make common cause with evolutionary biologists in the discovery of games in which the cooperative solution is a Nash equilibrium.. (shrink)
Empirical data on food sharing in native Dolgan, Nganasan, and Nenets communities in Siberia provide evidence for hunter control over big game and fish, as well as likely benefits of inter-household sharing. Most food sharing occurs with kin and, thus, kin-selection-based nepotism cannot be ruled out. Reciprocal interhousehold sharing at meals occurs less often. Social context is discussed.
Even Jesus had a favorite -- Saints and favorites -- Fairness, tribes, and nephews -- Classic cases of favoritism -- To thy own tribe be true: biological favoritism -- Moral gravity -- The biochemistry of favoritism -- Humans are wired for favoritism -- A healthy addiction -- Flexible favoritism -- Kin selection -- Rational or emotional motives -- Conflicting brain systems -- Facts and values -- In praise of exceptions -- Building the grid of impartiality -- Going off the (...) grid -- Friendship and favoritism -- Reasonable favoritism -- "But, Dad, that's not fair!" -- The fusion of feelings and ideas -- Sowing the seeds of confusion: sharing -- Sowing the seeds of confusion: open minds -- Envy and fairness -- Excellence, fairness, and favoritism -- The circle of favors: global perspectives -- Chinese favoritism -- Face culture -- Indian favoritism -- Disentangling nepotism and corruption -- Disentangling tribalism and tragedy -- "Your people shall be my people?" -- Minorities, majorities, and favoritism -- Affirmative action and favoritism -- The finite stretch -- Feeling the stones with your feet -- Because you're mine, I walk the line -- The virtues of favoritism -- You can't love humanity. You can only love people -- The future of favoritism -- The archbishop and the chambermaid. (shrink)
Can evolutionary models explain food sharing in traditional human societies? Gurven's analysis cannot rule out any of the models (kin selection, reciprocal altruism, tolerated scrounging, costly signaling, or by-product mutualism), and quantitative partitioning of relative importance is not feasible. For now, the hypotheses seem like the proverbial blind men examining the elephant: each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!
I agree with Gurven that costly signaling can explain food-sharing phenomena. However, costly signaling may also explain the role of food sharing in deterring rivals. Details of food-sharing interactions may reveal gains and losses in the social prestige of the interacting parties. The evolutionary models of kin selection and of reciprocal altruism are unstable and should be avoided.
A darwinian evolutionary approach can contribute to reassess philosophical problems in different fields, including ethics and moral theory. Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology address these issues by presupposing mechanisms such as kin selection and reciprocal altruism. However, these mechanisms can’t account for cooperation in the human species. Dual inheritance theory addresses human cooperation differently, by taking into account the above-mentioned classical biological mechanisms without ignoring, however, relevant knowledge produced by social scientists. According to this approach, human social psychology comprises tribal (...) social instincts and symbolic markers. One implication of this approach is that there are innate and universal moral principles hardwired in the human mind-brain, which where selected through an evolutionary process that makes life possible in large, structured social groups. Although innate, these principles are plastically shaped to meet the demands of different cultural niches in particular societies. (shrink)
Evidence reveals numerous cross-cultural universals regarding human mental processes and behavior. Similarly, cross-cultural data are consistent with predictions from theories of kin selection, reciprocal altruism, and sexual selection inspired by Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Thus, the “annals of human behaviour” do provide “example[s] fitting the sociobiological bill,” (Lifelines, p. 202) thereby, supporting sociobiological accounts of human behavior.
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.
In his state-of-the-art review, Gurven compares evolutionary theories of food transfers in ethnographic settings. Although this is useful, I suggest that one must first try to determine the utility of food transfers before making predictions about which parties ought to receive food. In addition, I argue that tests of kin selection theory present a special problem in food transfers.
Emphasis on cross-cultural testing, multiple currencies, multivariate analyses, and levels of explanation makes this an important paper. However, it does not distinguish current function from evolutionary origin; it lacks history. Rather than distinct alternatives, tolerated scrounging (TS), costly signaling (CS), and reciprocal altruism (RA) are likely to be sequentially evolved components of a single integrated system (and kin selection (KS) important only among very close relatives).
The question on how the diverse forms of cooperative behavior in humans and nonhuman animals could have evolved under the pressure of natural selection has been a challenge for evolutionary biology ever since Darwin himself. In this chapter, we briefly review and summarize results from the last 50 years of research on human and nonhuman cooperativeness from a theoretical (biology) and an experimental perspective (experimental economics). The first section presents six concepts from theoretical biology able to explain a variety (...) of forms of cooperativeness which evolved in many different species. These are kin selection, mutualism, reciprocity, green-beard altruism, costly signaling, and cultural group selection. These considerations are complemented by two short examples of evolved cooperative behavior, one from microbiology and one from ethology. The second main section focuses on recent experimental research on human cooperativeness. We present a brief review of factors known to impact individual human decision-making in social dilemmas, most prominently communication, punishment, reputation, and assortment. Our conclusion then draws attention to tasks for further research in this area. (shrink)
This book breaks new ground by drawing attention to certain kinds of biases that permeate many parts of science and by developing a theory of how to correct for these biases. Follow this link http://www.anthropic-principle.com/ to Nick Bostrom's web page on everything related to observation selection effects, the anthropic principle, self-locating belief, and associated applications and paradoxes in science and philosophy.
I distinguish between two kinds of selection effects on experience: selection of objects or features for experience, and anti-selection of experiences for cognitive uptake. I discuss the idea that both kinds of selection effects can lead to a form of confirmation bias at the level of perception, and argue that when this happens, selection effects can influence the rational role of experience.
Genes are thought to have evolved from long-lived and multiply-interactive molecules in the early stages of the origins of life. However, at that stage there were no replicators, and the distinction between interactors and replicators did not yet apply. Nevertheless, the process of evolution that proceeded from initial autocatalytic hypercycles to full organisms was a Darwinian process of selection of favourable variants. We distinguish therefore between Neo-Darwinian evolution and the related Weismannian and Central Dogma divisions, on the one hand, (...) and the more generic category of Darwinian evolution on the other. We argue that Hull’s and Dawkins’ replicator/interactor distinction of entities is a sufficient, but not necessary, condition for Darwinian evolution to take place. We conceive the origin of genes as a separation between different types of molecules in a thermodynamic state space, and employ a notion of reproducers. (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 natural selection 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: email@example.com. (shrink)
The Nature of Selection is a straightforward, self-contained introduction to philosophical and biological problems in evolutionary theory. It presents a powerful analysis of the evolutionary concepts of natural selection, fitness, and adaptation and clarifies controversial issues concerning altruism, group selection, and the idea that organisms are survival machines built for the good of the genes that inhabit them. "Sober's is the answering philosophical voice, the voice of a first-rate philosopher and a knowledgeable student of contemporary evolutionary theory. (...) His book merits broad attention among both communities. It should also inspire others to continue the conversation."-Philip Kitcher, Nature "Elliott Sober has made extraordinarily important contributions to our understanding of biological problems in evolutionary biology and causality. The Nature of Selection is a major contribution to understanding epistemological problems in evolutionary theory. I predict that it will have a long lasting place in the literature."-Richard C. Lewontin. (shrink)
We distinguish dynamical and statistical interpretations of evolutionary theory. We argue that only the statistical interpretation preserves the presumed relation between natural selection 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)
It is quite probable that one will soon be able to use genetic engineering to select the gender of one’s child by directly manipulating the sex of an embryo. Some might think that this method would be a more ethical method of sex selection than present technologies such as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), since, unlike PGD, it does not need to create and destroy “wrong-gendered” embryos. This paper argues that those who object to present technologies on the ground that (...) the embryo is a person are unlikely to be persuaded by this proposal, though for different reasons. (shrink)
Consider the paradox of altruism: the existence of truly altruistic behaviors is difﬁcult to reconcile with an evolutionary theory which holds that natural selection operates only on individuals, since in that case individuals should be unwilling to sacriﬁce their own ﬁtness for the sake of others. Evolutionists have frequently turned to the hypothesis of group selection to explain the existence of altruism; but, even setting aside difﬁculties about understanding the relationship between altruistic behaviors and morality, group selection (...) cannot explain the evolution of morality, since morality is a one-group phenomenon and group selection is a many-group phenomenon. After spelling out just what the problem is, this paper discusses several ways out and concludes by offering suggestions why one seems best. (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 natural selection 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 natural selection that have this third form are a priori mathematical truths. Some are obvious, (...) others less so. Empirical work on natural selection 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)
The importance of mate choice and sexual selection has been emphasized by the majority of evolutionary psychologists. This paper assesses three cases of work on mate choice and sexual selection in evolutionary psychology: David Buss on cross-cultural human mate preferences, Randy Thornhill and Steve Gangestad on the link between mate preferences and fluctuating asymmetry, and Geoffrey Miller on the role of Fisher’s runaway process in human evolution. A mixture of conceptual and empirical problems in each case highlights the (...) general weakness of work in evolutionary psychology on these issues. (shrink)
Recently, much philosophical discussion has centered on the best way to characterize the concepts of random drift and natural selection, and, in particular, whether selection and drift can be conceptually distinguished (Beatty, 1984; Brandon, 2005; Hodge, 1983, 1987; Millstein, 2002, 2005; Pfeifer, 2005; Shanahan, 1992; Stephens, 2004). These authors all contend, to a greater or lesser degree, that their concepts make sense of biological practice. So it should be instructive to see how the concepts of drift and (...) class='Hi'>selection were distinguished by the disputants in a high-profile debate; debates such as these often force biologists to take a more philosophical turn, discussing the concepts at issue in greater detail than usual. Moreover, it is important to consider a debate where the disputants are actually trying to apply the models of population genetics to natural populations; only then can their proper interpretations become fully apparent. (Indeed, I contend that some of the philosophical confusion has arisen because authors have considered only the models themselves, and not the phenomena that the models are attempting to represent). A prime candidate for just such a case study is what Provine (1986) has termed “The Great Snail Debate,” that is, the debates over the highly polymorphic land snails Cepaea nemoralis and C. hortensis in the 1950s and early 1960s. These studies represent one of the best, if not the best, of the early attempts to demonstrate drift in natural populations. (shrink)
Elliott Sober and his defenders think of selection, drift, mutation, and migration as distinct evolutionary forces. This paper exposes an ambiguity in Sober's account of the force of selection: sometimes he appears to equate the force of selection with variation in fitness, sometimes with ‘selection for properties’. Sober's own account of fitness as a property analogous to life-expectancy shows how the two conceptions come apart. Cases where there is selection against variance in offspring number also (...) show that selection and drift cannot be distinguished in the way Sober hopes for. These issues have significance beyond the parochial matter of the coherence of Sober's system. There is no good principled answer to the question of which features of a population should count among the contributors to fitness. This means there is no non-arbitrary account of the nature of selection. (shrink)
In a series of articles and in a recent book, What Darwin Got Wrong, Jerry Fodor has objected to Darwin’s principle of natural selection 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 natural selection, 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)
I discuss two subjects in Samir Okasha’s excellent book, Evolution and the Levels of Selection. In consonance with Okasha’s critique of the conventionalist view of the units of selection problem, I argue that conventionalists have not attended to what realists mean by group, individual, and genic selection. In connection with Okasha’s discussion of the Price equation and contextual analysis, I discuss whether the existence of these two quantitative frameworks is a challenge to realism.