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Adaptation and Environment

Adaptation and Environment

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    Adaptation and Environment
    Book Description:

    By focusing on the crucial role of environment in the process of adaptation, Robert Brandon clarifies definitions and principles so as to help make the argument of evolution by natural selection empirically testable. He proposes that natural selection is the process of differential reproduction resulting from differential adaptedness to a common selective environment.

    Originally published in 1995.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6066-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. CHAPTER 1 Adaptation and Natural Selection
    (pp. 3-44)

    The existence of adaptations, the fit between organisms and their environments, is one of the most striking features of the biological world. Before Darwin (1859) numerous accounts were offered to explain adaptations, the most prominent among them being the creationist account. According to this account, organisms were designed by God to fit the demands of their environments. Darwin offered an alternative account: the theory of evolution by natural selection. There have been still other rival explanations of adaptations. Perhaps the most important of these is a “Lamarckian” theory whereby organisms somehow adapt to their environment during their lifetime and then...

  2. CHAPTER 2 The Concept of Environment in the Theory of Natural Selection
    (pp. 45-77)

    During the last few decades our understanding of natural selection has been advanced by the elimination of certain phenomena from the category of natural selection. Although there are many who have defined natural selection as mere differential reproduction (see Beatty 1984, p. 191, for examples), it is now abundantly clear that such a definition is inadequate. If random drift is an alternative to natural selection and if it can result in differential reproduction, then not all cases of differential reproduction are cases of natural selection. As in the example discussed in chapter 1, lightning may strike vigorous individuals, leaving less...

  3. CHAPTER 3 The Levels of Selection
    (pp. 78-133)

    Biologists have long recognized that the biosphere is hierarchically arranged. And at least since 1970 we have recognized that the abstract theory of evolution by natural selection can be applied to a number of elements within the biological hierarchy (Lewontin 1970). But what is it for selection to occur at a given level of biological organization? What is a “unit of selection”? Is there one privileged level at which selection always, or almost always, occurs? In this chapter I will try to clarify and partially answer these questions. In the first four sections I explicate the distinction between replicators and...

  4. CHAPTER 4 The Structure of the Theory of Natural Selection
    (pp. 134-158)

    What is the structure of evolutionary theory? This question has received considerable attention from philosophers of biology. For instance, David Hull’s (1974) textbook in philosophy of biology has a chapter called “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.” Eleven years later Alexander Rosenberg’s (1985) book has a chapter with the same title. Elisabeth Lloyd’s (1988) recent book is entitledThe Structure and Confirmation of Evolutionary Theory. In 1980 the Philosophy of Science Association devoted a symposium to the topic (Beatty 1981; Brandon 1981; Williams 1981). And, of course, there have been numerous papers written on this issue. Thus it is safe to...

  5. CHAPTER 5 Mechanism and Teleology
    (pp. 159-194)

    This final chapter explores the nature and value of adaptation explanations. What is required for a complete adaptation explanation? In answer to this question I present an account of what I callideally complete adaptation explanations. Due to epistemological limitations this ideal is rarely, if ever, realized in evolutionary biology. But I argue that adaptation explanations that fall short of the ideal in certain ways are still of considerable value. Are adaptation explanations teleological? I argue that they are in an important sense, but I also show how this teleological aspect must be explicated in purely mechanistic terms. Finally, I...