Journal Article

Natural Selection as a Population-Level Causal Process

Roberta L. Millstein

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 57, issue 4, pages 627-653
Published in print December 2006 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2006 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axl025
Natural Selection as a Population-Level Causal Process

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Recent discussions in the philosophy of biology have brought into question some fundamental assumptions regarding evolutionary processes, natural selection in particular. Some authors argue that natural selection is nothing but a population-level, statistical consequence of lower-level events (Matthen and Ariew [2002]; Walsh et al. [2002]). On this view, natural selection itself does not involve forces. Other authors reject this purely statistical, population-level account for an individual-level, causal account of natural selection (Bouchard and Rosenberg [2004]). I argue that each of these positions is right in one way, but wrong in another; natural selection indeed takes place at the level of populations, but it is a causal process nonetheless.

Introduction

A brief justification of population-level causality

2.1 Frequency-dependent selection

2.2 Accounts of causation

The montane willow leaf beetle: a causal story

The montane willow leaf beetle: a population-level story

4.1 Response to ‘naïve individualism’

4.2 Response to ‘sophisticated individualism’

Conclusion

Journal Article.  12404 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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