Natural selection and drift as individual-level causes of evolution

Pierrick Bourrat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

In this paper I critically evaluate Reisman and Forber’s (Philos Sci 72(5):1113–1123, 2005) arguments that drift and natural selection are population-level causes of evolution based on what they call the manipulation condition. Although I agree that this condition is an important step for identifying causes for evolutionary change, it is insufficient. Following Woodward, I argue that the invariance of a relationship is another crucial parameter to take into consideration for causal explanations. Starting from Reisman and Forber’s example on drift and after having briefly presented the criterion of invariance, I show that once both the manipulation condition and the criterion of invariance are taken into account, drift, in this example, should better be understood as an individual-level rather than a population-level cause. Later, I concede that it is legitimate to interpret natural selection and drift as population-level causes when they rely on genuinely indeterministic events and some cases of frequency-dependent selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-176
Number of pages18
JournalActa Biotheoretica
Volume66
Issue number3
Early online date14 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

Keywords

  • Causality
  • Drift
  • Evolution
  • Invariance
  • Manipulation
  • Natural selection
  • Probabilities

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