Natural selection without survival of the fittest

Biology and Philosophy 1 (2):207-225 (1986)
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Abstract

Susan Mills and John Beatty proposed a propensity interpretation of fitness (1979) to show that Darwinian explanations are not circular, but they did not address the critics' chief complaint that the principle of the survival of the fittest is either tautological or untestable. I show that the propensity interpretation cannot rescue the principle from the critics' charges. The critics, however, incorrectly assume that there is nothing more to Darwin's theory than the survival of the fittest. While Darwinians all scoff at this assumption, they do not agree about what role, if any, this principle plays in Darwin's theory of natural selection. I argue that the principle has no place in Darwin's theory. His theory does include the idea that some organisms are fitter than others. But greater reproductive success is simply inferred from higher fitness. There is no reason to embody this inference in the form of a special principle of the survival of the fittest.

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C. Kenneth Waters
University of Calgary

Citations of this work

Probability in Biology: The Case of Fitness.Roberta L. Millstein - 2016 - In A. Hájek & C. R. Hitchcock (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Probability and Philosophy. Oxford University Press. pp. 601-622.
The Statistical Character of Evolutionary Theory.Barbara L. Horan - 1994 - Philosophy of Science 61 (1):76-95.
Function, Fitness and Disposition.Sandra D. Mitchell - 1995 - Biology and Philosophy 10 (1):39-54.
From Necessary Chances to Biological Laws.Chris Haufe - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (2):279-295.
Evolution.Roberta L. Millstein - 2017 - Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

On the Origin of Species.Charles Darwin - 2008 - Oxford University Press.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
The Propensity Interpretation of Fitness.Susan K. Mills & John H. Beatty - 1979 - Philosophy of Science 46 (2):263-286.
Adaptation and Evolutionary Theory.Robert N. Brandon - 1978 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 9 (3):181.

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