Journal Article

The Natures of Selection

Tim Lewens

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 61, issue 2, pages 313-333
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online October 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
The Natures of Selection

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Mathematics


Show Summary Details


Elliott Sober and his defenders think of selection, drift, mutation, and migration as distinct evolutionary forces. This paper exposes an ambiguity in Sober's account of the force of selection: sometimes he appears to equate the force of selection with variation in fitness, sometimes with ‘selection for properties’. Sober's own account of fitness as a property analogous to life-expectancy shows how the two conceptions come apart. Cases where there is selection against variance in offspring number also show that selection and drift cannot be distinguished in the way Sober hopes for. These issues have significance beyond the parochial matter of the coherence of Sober's system. There is no good principled answer to the question of which features of a population should count among the contributors to fitness. This means there is no non-arbitrary account of the nature of selection.

Evolutionary Forces

Selection and Drift

Evolutionary and Newtonian Forces

Is Natural Selection a Cause?

An Ambiguity in Sober's Account of Selection: Variation in Fitness versus Selection-for

A Second Problem: The Determinants of Fitness


Journal Article.  9634 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.