Chapter

Central Tendencies and Individual Organisms

in Darwinian Reductionism

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9780226727295
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226727318 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226727318.003.0006
Central Tendencies and Individual Organisms

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This chapter explores an interpretation of the principle of natural selection that will sustain the antireductionist's claim. It considers the holistic “central-tendencies” interpretation of the theory of natural selection, and the way in which it employs probabilities both to deal with the interpretative problems of the theory and to underwrite its holism. It argues that the holistic interpretation and its parallel to thermodynamics are seriously mistaken and prevent the theory from coherently defining fitness or making a principled distinction between selection and drift. But these are two things any successful interpretation of the theory of natural selection must do. It is shown that these two things—defining fitness and empirically distinguishing drift and selection—can only be accomplished by a theory that does have some use for individual organisms and their biographies.

Keywords: natural selection; antireductionism; central tendencies; fitness; drift; probabilities

Chapter.  9256 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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