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Bookkeeping or Metaphysics? The Units of Selection Debate

D. M. Walsh
Synthese
Vol. 138, No. 3 (Feb., 2004), pp. 337-361
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20118396
Page Count: 25
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Bookkeeping or Metaphysics? The Units of Selection Debate
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Abstract

The Units of Selection debate is a dispute about the causes of population change. I argue that it is generated by a particular 'dynamical' interpretation of natural selection theory, according to which natural selection causes differential survival and reproduction of individuals and natural selection explanations cite these causes. I argue that the dynamical interpretation is mistaken and offer in outline an alternative, 'statistical' interpretation, according to which natural selection theory is a fancy kind of 'bookkeeping'. It explains by citing the statistical structure of a population and not by citing the causes of survival and reproduction. From the perspective of the statistical interpretation there is no substantive Units of Selection issue.

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