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The Units of Selection and the Structure of the Multi-Level Genome

William C. Wimsatt
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1980, Volume Two: Symposia and Invited Papers (1980), pp. 122-183
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/192589
Page Count: 62
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The Units of Selection and the Structure of the Multi-Level Genome
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Abstract

The reductionistic vision of evolutionary theory, "the gene's eye view of evolution" is the dominant view among evolutionary biologists today. On this view, the gene is the only unit with sufficient stability to act as a unit of selection, with individuals and groups being more ephemeral units of function, but not of selection. This view is argued to be incorrect, on several grounds. The empirical and theoretical bases for the existence of higher-level units of selection are explored, and alternative analyses discussed critically. The success of a multi-level selection theory demands the recognition and development of a multi-level genetics. The way to accomplish this is suggested. The genotype/phenotype distinction also requires further analysis to see how it applies at higher levels of organization. This analysis provides a way of defining genotype and phenotype for cultural evolution, and a treatment of the innate-acquired distinction which are both generalizeable to analyze problems of the nature and focus of scientific change.

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