Replicators and Vehicles


he theory o f natural selection provides a mechanistic, causal account of how living things came to look as if they had been designed for a purpose. So overwhelming is the appearance of purposeful design that, even in this Darwinian era when we know "better," we still find it difficult, indeed boringly pedantic, to refrain from teleological language when discussing adaptation. Birds' wings are obviously "for" flying, spider webs are for catching insects, chlorophyll molecules are for photosynthesis, DNA molecules are for... What are DNA molecules for? The question takes us aback. In my case it touches off an almost audible alarm siren in the mind. If we accept the view of life that I wish to espouse, it is the forbidden question. DNA is not "for" anything. If we wish to speak teleologically, all adaptations are for the preservation of DNA; DNA itself just is. Following Williams, I have advocated this view at length, and I do not want to repeat myself here. Instead I shall try to clear up an important misunderstanding of the view, a misunderstanding that has constituted an unnecessary barrier to its acceptance



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 94,623

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

  • Only published works are available at libraries.


Added to PP

139 (#135,042)

6 months
11 (#350,969)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Evolution of multicellularity: cheating done right.Walter Veit - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (3):34.
Hierarchies, Networks, and Causality: The Applied Evolutionary Epistemological Approach.Nathalie Gontier - 2021 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 52 (2):313-334.
Units and levels of selection.Elisabeth Lloyd - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Biological Species: Natural Kinds, Individuals, or What?Ruse Michael - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (2):225-242.

View all 77 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references