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Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?

Elliott Sober
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 106, Supplement 1: In the Light of Evolution III: Two Centuries of Darwin (Jun. 16, 2009), pp. 10048-10055
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40428421
Page Count: 8
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Abstract

After clarifying how Darwin understood natural selection and common ancestry, I consider how the two concepts are related in his theory. I argue that common ancestry has evidential priority. Arguments about natural selection often make use of the assumption of common ancestry, whereas arguments for common ancestry do not require the assumption that natural selection has been at work. In fact, Darwin held that the key evidence for common ancestry comes from characters whose evolution is not caused by natural selection. This raises the question of why Darwin puts natural selection first and foremost in the Origin.

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