Journal Article

Nongenetic Selection and Nongenetic Inheritance

Matteo Mameli

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 55, issue 1, pages 35-71
Published in print March 2004 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 2004 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Nongenetic Selection and Nongenetic Inheritance

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According to the received view of evolution, only genes are inherited. From this view it follows that only genetically-caused phenotypic variation is selectable and, thereby, that all selection is at bottom genetic selection. This paper argues that the received view is wrong. In many species, there are intergenerationally-stable phenotypic differences due to environmental differences. Natural selection can act on these nongenetically-caused phenotypic differences in the same way it acts on genetically-caused phenotypic differences. Some selection is at bottom nongenetic selection. The argument against the received view involves a reformulation of the concepts of inheritance and heritability. Inherited factors are all those developmental factors responsible for parent–offspring similarity; some inherited factors are genetic and some are not. Heritable variation is intergenerationally-stable phenotypic variation; some such variation is genetically-caused and some is not.

The received view and its critics

The possibility of nongenetic selection (the lucky butterfly)

The reality of nongenetic selection

3.1 Imprinting mechanisms

3.2 Other learning mechanisms

3.3 Other nongenetic mechanisms

Genetic and nongenetic inheritance mechanisms

Genetic and nongenetic inherited factors

Genetic and nongenetic heritability


Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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