Population Pluralism and Natural Selection

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (1):axu003 (2014)
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I defend a radical interpretation of biological populations—what I call population pluralism—which holds that there are many ways that a particular grouping of individuals can be related such that the grouping satisfies the conditions necessary for those individuals to evolve together. More constraining accounts of biological populations face empirical counter-examples and conceptual difficulties. One of the most intuitive and frequently employed conditions, causal connectivity—itself beset with numerous difficulties—is best construed by considering the relevant causal relations as ‘thick’ causal concepts. I argue that the fine-grained causal relations that could constitute membership in a biological population are huge in number and many are manifested by degree, and thus we can construe population membership as being defined by massively multidimensional constructs, the differences between which are largely arbitrary. I end by showing that positions in two recent debates in theoretical biology depend on a view of biological populations at odds with the pluralism defended here. 1 Introduction2 Biological Population, Broad and Narrow3 Difficulties with Narrow Biological Population Conditions3.1 Against the genealogical condition3.2 Against the conspecificity condition3.3 Against the proximity condition3.4 Against the typology condition4 Causal Connectivity5 Massively Multidimensional Population Constructs6 Population Uniqueness and Natural Selection6.1 Statisticalism and its discontents6.2 Price at what price?7 Conclusion

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Author's Profile

Jacob Stegenga
University of Cambridge

Citations of this work

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References found in this work

Species.Philip Kitcher - 1984 - Philosophy of Science 51 (2):308-333.
Individuality and Selection.David L. Hull - 1980 - Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 11:311-332.
Artifact, cause and genic selection.Elliott Sober & Richard C. Lewontin - 1982 - Philosophy of Science 49 (2):157-180.
Natural selection as a population-level causal process.Roberta L. Millstein - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (4):627-653.

View all 25 references / Add more references