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Selection Does Not Operate Primarily on Genes

Burian, Richard (2008) Selection Does Not Operate Primarily on Genes. [Preprint]


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This chapter offers a review of standard views about the requirements for natural selection to shape evolution and for the sorts of ‘units’ on which selection might operate. It then summarizes traditional arguments for genic selectionism, i.e., the view that selection operates primarily on genes (e.g., those of G. C. Williams, Richard Dawkins, and David Hull) and traditional counterarguments (e.g., those of William Wimsatt, Richard Lewontin, and Elliott Sober, and a diffuse group based on life history strategies). It then offers a series of responses to the arguments, based on more contemporary considerations from molecular genetics, offered by Carmen Sapienza. A key issue raised by Sapienza concerns the degree to which a small number of genes might be able to control much of the variation relevant to selection operating on such selectively critical organs as hearts. The response to these arguments suggests that selection acts on many levels at once and that sporadic selection, acting with strong effects, can act successively on different key traits (and genes) while maintaining a balance among many potentially conflicting demands faced by organisms within an evolving lineage.

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Item Type: Preprint
Burian, Richard
Additional Information: This is a companion paper to Carmen Sapienza, “Selection Does Operate Primarily on Genes: In Defense of the Gene as the Unit of Selection”. Both are forthcoming in Francisco Ayala and Robert Arp, eds., Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). Two additional chapters to this volume, by Michael Ruse and Francisco Ayala, are also posted in this Archive. Ruse: Ayala: Sapienza: Burian:
Keywords: evolution, units of selection, genic selectionism, phenotypic selection, epigenetic heredity, epigenetic variation,
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Explanation
Depositing User: Richard Burian
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2008
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:16
Item ID: 4081

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