Journal Article

Discussion. Evolution, Wisconsin style: selection and the explanation of individual traits

M Matthen

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 50, issue 1, pages 143-150
Published in print March 1999 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 1999 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/50.1.143
Discussion. Evolution, Wisconsin style: selection and the explanation of individual traits

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Elliott Sober maintains ([19384], [1995]) that explanation by natural selection may show why all (most, some) humans have an opposable thumb, but cannot show why any particular human has one, Karen Neander ([1995a], [1995b]) argues that this is false because natural selection is 'cumulative'. It is argued here, on grounds independent of its cumulativity, that selection can explain the characteristics of individual organisms subsequent to the event. The difference of opinion between Sober and his critics turns on an ontological dispute about how organisms are identified and individuated. The assumption that Sober needs to make his point is extraneous to population genetics, and, for this reason, gratuitous.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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