Problems for Natural Selection as a Mechanism

Philosophy of Science 78 (3):512-523 (2011)
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Abstract

Skipper and Millstein analyze natural selection and mechanism, concluding that natural selection is not a mechanism in the sense of the new mechanistic philosophy. Barros disagrees and provides his own account of natural selection as a mechanism. This discussion identifies a missing piece of Barros's account, attempts to fill in that piece, and reconsiders the revised account. Two principal objections are developed: one, the account does not characterize natural selection; two, the account is not mechanistic. Extensive and persistent variability causes both of these difficulties, so further attempts to describe natural selection as a mechanism are also unlikely to succeed.

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Joyce C. Havstad
University of Utah

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