M. A. Istvan Jr.
Austin Community College
My general aim is to clarify the foundational difference between Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins concerning what biological entities are the units of selection in the process of evolution by natural selection. First, I recapitulate Gould’s central objection to Dawkins’s view that genes are the exclusive units of selection. According to Gould, it is absurd for Dawkins to think that genes are the exclusive units of selection when, after all, genes are not the exclusive interactors: those agents directly engaged with, directly impacted by, environmental pressures. Second, I argue that Gould’s objection still goes through even when we take into consideration Sterelny and Kitcher’s defense of gene selectionism in their admirable paper “The Return of the Gene.” Third, I propose a strategy for defending Dawkins that I believe obviates Gould’s objection. Drawing upon Elisabeth Lloyd’s careful taxonomy of the various understandings of the unit of selection at play in the philosophy of biology literature, my proposal involves realizing that Dawkins endorses a different understanding of the unit of selection than Gould holds him to, an understanding that does not require genes to be the exclusive interactors.
Keywords Gould  Dawkins  unit of selection
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.05.020
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References found in this work BETA

A Matter of Individuality.David L. Hull - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 45 (3):335-360.
The Return of the Gene.Kim Sterelny & Philip Kitcher - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (7):339-361.
Individuality and Selection.David L. Hull - 1980 - Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 11:311-332.
Tempered Realism About the Force of Selection.C. Kenneth Waters - 1991 - Philosophy of Science 58 (4):553-573.
Units and Levels of Selection.Elisabeth Lloyd - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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