Biology and Philosophy 24 (3):325-339 (2009)

Authors
Stuart Glennan
Butler University
Abstract
Recent papers by a number of philosophers have been concerned with the question of whether natural selection 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 natural selection 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.
Keywords Causation  Population causation  Statisticalism  Productivity  Relevance  Natural selection
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-008-9137-7
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References found in this work BETA

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.

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Citations of this work BETA

What is a Mechanism? Thinking About Mechanisms Across the Sciences.Phyllis Illari & Jon Williamson - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):119-135.
The Metaphysics of Constitutive Mechanistic Phenomena.Marie I. Kaiser & Beate Krickel - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (3).
Function and Organization: Comparing the Mechanisms of Protein Synthesis and Natural Selection.Phyllis McKay Illari & Jon Williamson - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41 (3):279-291.

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