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The Nature of Selection

Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus

The Nature of Selection is a straightforward, self-contained introduction to philosophical and biological problems in evolutionary theory. It presents a powerful analysis of the evolutionary concepts of natural selection, fitness, and adaptation and clarifies controversial issues concerning altruism, group selection, and the idea that organisms are survival machines built for the good of the genes that inhabit them.

"Sober’s is the answering philosophical voice, the voice of a first-rate philosopher and a knowledgeable student of contemporary evolutionary theory. His book merits broad attention among both communities. It should also inspire others to continue the conversation."-Philip Kitcher, Nature

"Elliott Sober has made extraordinarily important contributions to our understanding of biological problems in evolutionary biology and causality. The Nature of Selection is a major contribution to understanding epistemological problems in evolutionary theory. I predict that it will have a long lasting place in the literature."-Richard C. Lewontin

400 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 1984, 1993

Philosophy of Science

Table of Contents

Part 1 - Fitness, Selection, Adaptation
1. Evolutionary Theory as a Theory of Forces
1.1. The Prehistory of a Concept
1.2. History and Theory
1.3. Zero-Force States
1.4. Darwinian Fitness
1.5. Source Laws and Supervenience
2. The Tautology Problem
2.1. A Good Tautology Is Hard to Find
2.2. A Little A Priori Truth Never Hurt Anyone
3. Survival, Reproduction, Causation
3.1. Fitness Is Casually Inert
3.2. Selection Of and Selection For
4. Chance
4.1. The Randomness of Mutation
4.2. Deterministic and Stochastic Processes
4.3. What Laplace’s Demon Would Be Missing
5. Explanation
5.1. Explanation and Prediction
5.2. Variational and Developmental Explanation
5.3. Population Thinking and Essentialism
6. Adaptation
6.1. Selection and Improvement
6.2. Retrospect and Prospect
Part II - The Group Above and the Gene Below
7. Beginnings
7.1. Historical Background
7.2. Transitivity and Context Dependence
7.3. Parsimony
7.4. Representability
7.5. The Unit of Replication
7.6. Adaptation and Artifact
7.7. Group Selection without Altruism
7.8. The Analysis of Variance
8. Causality
8.1. Object and Property
8.2. Coronaries and Correlations
8.3. Fine-Tuning
9. Consequences
9.1. The Selfish Gene or the Artifactual Allele?
9.2. Group Selection in Focus
9.3. Altruism and Averaging
9.4. Species Selection

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