Population Pluralism and Natural Selection

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Abstract
I defend a radical interpretation of biological populations—what I call population pluralism—which holds that there are many ways that a particular grouping of individuals can be related such that the grouping satisfies the conditions necessary for those individuals to evolve together. More constraining accounts of biological populations face empirical counter-examples and conceptual difficulties. One of the most intuitive and frequently employed conditions, causal connectivity—itself beset with numerous difficulties—is best construed by considering the relevant causal relations as ‘thick’ causal concepts. I argue that the fine-grained causal relations that could constitute membership in a biological population are huge in number and many are manifested by degree, and thus we can construe population membership as being defined by massively multidimensional constructs, the differences between which are largely arbitrary. I end by showing that positions in two recent debates in theoretical biology depend on a view of biological populations at odds with the pluralism defended here.
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STEPPA-23
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Archival date: 2016-07-21
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2016-04-13

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