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: 79,898

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.

Similar books and articles

Programs, bugs, DNA and a design argument.Alexander R. Pruss - 2008 - In Yujin Nagasawa & Erik J. Wielenberg (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Religion. Palgrave-Macmillan.
Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection. [REVIEW]Massimo Pigliucci - 2009 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (8).
One causal mechanism in evolution: One unit of selection.Carla E. Kary - 1990 - Philosophy of Science 57 (2):290-296.
The adaptive landscape of science.John S. Wilkins - 2008 - Biology and Philosophy 23 (5):659-671.
The Extravagant Creator of Junk DNA.James Goetz - 2006 - International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design Archive.
Families and Forensic DNA Profiles.Rebecca Dresser - 2011 - Hastings Center Report 41 (3):11-12.
How distinctive is genetic information?M. Richards - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 32 (4):663-687.
The inheritance of features.Matteo Mameli - 2005 - Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):365-399.


Added to PP

114 (#118,286)

6 months
9 (#109,483)

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.
Units and levels of selection.Elisabeth Lloyd - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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.
The replicator in retrospect.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2000 - Biology and Philosophy 15 (3):403-423.

View all 64 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references