Biology and Philosophy 37 (2):1-23 (2022)

Ulrich Krohs
University of Münster
Darwin’s claim about natural selection is reconstructed as an empirical claim about a causal connection leading from the match of the physiology of an individual and its environment to leaving surviving progeny. Variations in this match, Darwin claims, cause differences in the survival of the progeny. Modern concepts of fitness focus the survival side of this chain. Therefore, the assumption that evolutionary theory wants to explain reproductive success in terms of a modern concept of fitness has given rise to the so-called tautology problem. It is shown that the tautology problem reappears in the treatment of fitness proxies in today’s experimental evolutionary biology when these proxies are considered to indicate fitness only. Taking Darwin’s empirical claim seriously suggests, by contrast, that fitness proxies are first of all measures of the match between organism and environment, which I call the organism’s ‘fittedness’. At the same time, they are indeed related to reproductive success. Thus looking in both directions, at fitness and at fittedness, they are janiform. Acknowledging this situation not only allows for rejection of the tautology objection, but also for integration of Darwin’s argument into current evolutionary biology. It is suggested that this helps reframe and alleviate the dispute between the Modern Synthesis and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis.
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-022-09847-0
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References found in this work BETA

The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.Susan K. Mills & John H. Beatty - 1979 - Philosophy of Science 46 (2):263-286.
A New Foundation for the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.Charles H. Pence & Grant Ramsey - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):851-881.

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