Evolution–Levels of Selection

Sober, Elliot and David Sloan Wilson. “A Critical Review of Philosophical Work on the Units of Selection Problem.” Philosophy of Science, 62:4 (1994), p. 534-55.

As the title suggests, this article reviews the debate over the level of selection in the evolutionary process. More specifically, it reviews the specific questions of evolutionary altruism—a phenomenon in which an organism sacrifices its own individual fitness for the sake of the group. Darwin formulated a type of groups or population selection, which is sometimes countered by notions of individual selection. Dawkins suggests a type of genetic selection which gets expressed in the fitness of phenotypes. The central question seems to revolve around the prominence of genes. Selection clearly favours organisms, groups and/or genes. Yet at times, evolutionary altruism is apparent in individuals and groups, but is that evident in genes? Would genes sacrifice themselves for the group of genes, would not that be going against a key functional constant of genes? These are just a few of the topics discussed.

Pg 536 “Dawkins distinguished replicator and vehicles. Genes are examples of the former and organisms are examples of the latter.” This vaguely resembles the mind/body dualism.


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