Competing units of selection?: A case of symbiosis

Philosophy of Science 54 (3):351-367 (1987)
Abstract
The controversy regarding the unit of selection is fundamentally a dispute about what is the correct causal structure of the process of evolution by natural selection and its ontological commitments. By characterizing the process as consisting of two essential steps--interaction and transmission--a singular answer to the unit question becomes ambiguous. With such an account on hand, two recent defenses of competing units of selection are considered. Richard Dawkins maintains that the gene is the appropriate unit of selection and Robert Brandon, in response, argues that the individual organism is better suited to the role. This paper argues that by making explicit the underlying questions that each of these views addresses, the apparent conflict can be resolved. Furthermore, such a resolution allows for a more complete and realistic understanding of the process of evolution by natural selection
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DOI 10.1086/289388
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