Biological Reviews 91 (3):712-727 (2016)

Authors
Jonathan Birch
London School of Economics
Abstract
The notion that natural selection is a process of fitness maximization gets a bad press in population genetics, yet in other areas of biology the view that organisms behave as if attempting to maximize their fitness remains widespread. Here I critically appraise the prospects for reconciliation. I first distinguish four varieties of fitness maximization. I then examine two recent developments that may appear to vindicate at least one of these varieties. The first is the ‘new’ interpretation of Fisher's fundamental theorem of natural selection, on which the theorem is exactly true for any evolving population that satisfies some minimal assumptions. The second is the Formal Darwinism project, which forges links between gene frequency change and optimal strategy choice. In both cases, I argue that the results fail to establish a biologically significant maximization principle. I conclude that it may be a mistake to look for universal maximization principles justified by theory alone. A more promising approach may be to find maximization principles that apply conditionally and to show that the conditions were satisfied in the evolution of particular traits.
Keywords fitness maximization  natural selection  population genetics  evolutionary ecology  Fisher's fundamental theorem  Formal Darwinism
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References found in this work BETA

The Return of the Gene.Kim Sterelny & Philip Kitcher - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (7):339.
The Formal Darwinism Project in Outline.Alan Grafen - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (2):155-174.
The Return of the Gene.Kim Sterelny & Philip Kitcher - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (7):339-361.
Group Adaptation, Formal Darwinism and Contextual Analysis.Samir Okasha & Cedric Paternotte - 2012 - Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25 (6):1127–1139.
Fitness (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).A. Rosenberg & F. Bouchard - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web 17 (8):457-473.

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Citations of this work BETA

Pathways to Pluralism About Biological Individuality.Beckett Sterner - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (5):609-628.
Hamilton’s Two Conceptions of Social Fitness.Jonathan Birch - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (5):848-860.
The behavioural ecology of irrational behaviours.Philippe Huneman & Johannes Martens - 2017 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 39 (3):23.
Fitness Maximization.Jonathan Birch - 2018 - In Richard Joyce (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy. London: Routledge. pp. 49-63.

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