The “averaging fallacy” and the levels of selection

Biology and Philosophy 19 (2):167-184 (2004)
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Abstract

This paper compares two well-known arguments in the units of selection literature, one due to , the other due to . Both arguments concern the legitimacy of averaging fitness values across contexts and making inferences about the level of selection on that basis. The first three sections of the paper shows that the two arguments are incompatible if taken at face value, their apparent similarity notwithstanding. If we accept Sober and Lewontin's criterion for when averaging genic fitnesses across diploid genotypes is illegitmate, we cannot accept Sober and Wilson's criterion for when averaging individual fitnesses across groups is illegitimate, and vice versa. The final section suggests a possible way of reconciling the two arguments, by invoking an ambiguity in the concept of genic selection.

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Samir Okasha
University of Bristol

Citations of this work

The mind, the lab, and the field: Three kinds of populations in scientific practice.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, Ryan Giordano, Michael D. Edge & Rasmus Nielsen - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 52:12-21.
The Relation between Kin and Multilevel Selection: An Approach Using Causal Graphs.Samir Okasha - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (2):435-470.
Units and levels of selection.Elisabeth Lloyd - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Multi-level selection, covariance and contextual analysis.Samir Okasha - 2004 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (3):481-504.

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