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Levels, Time and Fitness in Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality

Bourrat, Pierrick (2015) Levels, Time and Fitness in Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality. Philosophy and Theory in Biology, 7. pp. 1-17. ISSN 1949-0739

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In this paper, I identify two major problems with the model of evolutionary transitions in individuality (ETIs) developed by Michod and colleagues, and extended by Okasha, commonly referred to as the “export-of-fitness view”. First, it applies the concepts of viability and fertility inconsistently across levels of selection. This leads Michod to claim that once an ETI is complete, lower-level entities composing higher-level individuals have nil fitness. I argue that this claim is mistaken, propose a correct way to translate the concepts of viability and fertility from one level to the other and show that once an ETI is complete, neither viability nor fertility of the lower level entities is nil. Second, the export- of-fitness view does not sufficiently take the parameter of time into account when estimating fitness across levels of selection. As a result fitness is measured over different periods of time at each level. This ultimately means that fitness is measured in different environmental conditions at each level and misleads Okasha into making the claim that the two levels are ontologically distinct levels of selection. I show that once fitness is measured over the same period of time across levels, the claim about two levels of selection can only be an epistemic one.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Keywords: Evolutionary transitions in individuality, Levels of selection, MLS1, MLS2, Major transitions
Depositing User: Dr. Thomas Pashby
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2015 13:16
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2015 13:16
Item ID: 11521
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophy and Theory in Biology
Publisher: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle:
Date: February 2015
Page Range: pp. 1-17
Volume: 7
ISSN: 1949-0739

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