The selectionist rationale for evolutionary progress

Biology and Philosophy 36 (3):1-26 (2021)
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The dominant view today on evolutionary progress is that it has been thoroughly debunked. Even value-neutral progress concepts are seen to lack important theoretical underpinnings: natural selection provides no rationale for progress, and natural selection need not even be invoked to explain large-scale evolutionary trends. In this paper I challenge this view by analysing how natural selection acts in heterogeneous environments. This not only undermines key debunking arguments, but also provides a selectionist rationale for a pattern of “evolutionary unfolding”, where life radiates across an increased range of exploitation of environmental heterogeneity.

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Hugh Desmond
Leibniz Universität Hannover


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