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Adaptation and Natural Selection

Adaptation and Natural Selection: A Critique of Some Current Evolutionary Thought

  • Book Info
    Adaptation and Natural Selection
    Book Description:

    Biological evolution is a fact--but the many conflicting theories of evolution remain controversial even today. In 1966, simple Darwinism, which holds that evolution functions primarily at the level of the individual organism, was threatened by opposing concepts such as group selection, a popular idea stating that evolution acts to select entire species rather than individuals. George Williams's famous argument in favor of the Darwinists struck a powerful blow to those in opposing camps. HisAdaptation and Natural Selection,now a classic of science literature, is a thorough and convincing essay in defense of Darwinism; its suggestions for developing effective principles for dealing with the evolution debate and its relevance to many fields outside biology ensure the timelessness of this critical work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2010-8
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  2. Preface (1996)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xv-2)
    George C. Williams
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-19)

    Many of the contributions to evolutionary thought in the past century can be put in one of two opposed groups. One group emphasizes natural selection as the primary or exclusive creative force. The other minimizes the role of selection in relation to other proposed factors. R. A. Fisher (1930, 1954) showed that many of the proposed alternatives could be discounted with the acceptance of Mendelian genetics and a logical investigation of its relation to selection. Even without Mendelian genetics, Weismann (1904) effectively championed natural selection against some of its rivals of the nineteenth century. His only serious errors are traceable...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Natural Selection, Adaptation, and Progress
    (pp. 20-55)

    One of the strengths of scientific inquiry is that it can progress with any mixture of empiricism, intuition, and formal theory that suits the convenience of the investigator. Many sciences develop for a time as exercises in description and empirical generalization. Only later do they acquire reasoned connections within themselves and with other branches of knowledge. Many things were scientifically known of human anatomy and the motions of the planets before they were scientifically explained.

    The study of adaptation seems to show the opposite mode of development. It has already had its Newtonian synthesis, but its Galileo and Kepler have...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Natural Selection, Ecology, and Morphogenesis
    (pp. 56-91)

    In this chapter I will present some points of view that may facilitate the search for connections between the natural selection of alternative alleles and the phenomena of ecology and morphogenesis. It is my contention that the production and maintenance of adaptation in these realms is adequately understandable without recourse to creative evolutionary forces that would not be predictable outcomes of selective gene substitution. I will also discuss some examples of the supposed inadequacy of natural selection to resolve certain problems of ecology and morphogenesis.

    The relationship of genotype to phenotype is that different genotypes may produce different phenotypes in...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Group Selection
    (pp. 92-124)

    This book is a rejoinder to those who have questioned the adequacy of the traditional model of natural selection to explain evolutionary adaptation. The topics considered in the preceding chapters relate mainly to the adequacy of this model in the realms of physiological, ecological, and developmental mechanisms, matters of primary concern to individual organisms. At the individual level the adequacy of the selection of alternative alleles has been challenged to only a limited degree. Many more doubts on the importance of such selection have been voiced in relation to the phenomena of interactions among individuals. Many biologists have implied, and...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Adaptations of the Genetic System
    (pp. 125-157)

    The machinery of sexual reproduction in higher animals and plants is unmistakably an evolved adaptation. It is complex, remarkably uniform, and clearly directed at the goal of producing, with the genes of two parental individuals, offspring of diverse genotypes. How the production of diverse rather than uniform offspring contributes to the ultimate goal of reproductive survival may not be immediately obvious, but the precision of the machinery can only be explained on the basis of selection for efficiency in the production of offspring with the parental genes but not the parental genotypes.

    There are some troublesome terminological problems confronting anyone...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Reproductive Physiology and Behavior
    (pp. 158-192)

    An individual is fit if its adaptations are such as to make it likely to contribute a more than average number of genes to future generations. Fitness may be defined as "effective design for reproductive survival." One of the more provocative alternative definitions is Medawar's (1960, p. 108):

    The genetical usage of "fitness" is an extreme attenuation of the ordinary usage: it is, in effect, a system of pricing the endowments of organisms in the currency of offspring, i.e., in terms of net reproductive performance. It is a genetic valuation of goods, not a statement about their nature or quality....

  10. CHAPTER 7 Social Adaptations
    (pp. 193-220)

    Behavioral or physiological mechanisms that operate between an individual and its own offspring are normally benign and cooperative, but interactions between unrelated individuals normally take the form of open antagonism, or, at best, a tolerant neutrality. This is usually an accurate description of relationships within a species, although there are many apparent exceptions. The prevalence of solicitude for offspring and hostility to all others is clearly shown by what are considered the higher animals. The house cat population in any neighborhood would be a good illustration.

    Except for the phenomenon of general gregariousness, which will be considered later in this...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Other Supposedly Group-Related Adaptations
    (pp. 221-250)

    Chapters 5, 6, 7, and most of the present chapter are devoted to interactions between individuals and to the role of the individual in the phenomena of populations. It is in these phenomena that we would be most likely to find evidence of biotic adaptation, and in these that its absence would be the most significant.

    I have argued that organic adaptations are abundantly exemplified by interactions between individuals, but it must be conceded that such adaptation is most conspicuous in the physiology of single organisms. The principle of the precise adaptation of means to ends pervades every level of...

  12. CHAPTER 9 The Scientific Study of Adaptation
    (pp. 251-274)

    The preceding discussions have portrayed a certain view of natural selection and advocated this view as the only acceptable theory of the geinesis of adaptation. Natural selection arises from a reproductive competition among the individuals, and ultimately among the genes, in a Mendelian population. A gene is selected on one basis only, its average effectiveness in producing individuals able to maximize the gene's representation in future generations. The actual events in this process are endlessly complex, and the resulting adaptations exceedingly diverse, but the essential features are everywhere the same.

    The significance of a Mendelian population is that it is...

  13. Literature Cited
    (pp. 275-290)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 308-314)