Article ID: CBB535828538

Inclusive fitness as a criterion for improvement (2019)


I distinguish two roles for a fitness concept in the context of explaining cumulative adaptive evolution: fitness as a predictor of gene frequency change, and fitness as a criterion for phenotypic improvement. Critics of inclusive fitness argue, correctly, that it is not an ideal fitness concept for the purpose of predicting gene-frequency change, since it relies on assumptions about the causal structure of social interaction that are unlikely to be exactly true in real populations, and that hold as approximations only given a specific type of weak selection. However, Hamilton took this type of weak selection, on independent grounds, to be responsible for cumulative assembly of complex adaptations. In this special context, I argue that inclusive fitness is distinctively valuable as a criterion for improvement and a standard for optimality. Yet to call inclusive fitness a criterion for improvement and a standard for optimality is not to make any claim about the frequency with which inclusive fitness optimization actually occurs in nature. This is an empirical question that cannot be settled by theory alone. I close with some reflections on the place of inclusive fitness in the long running clash between ‘causalist’ and ‘statisticalist’ conceptions of fitness.

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Authors & Contributors
Ruse, Michael
Gayon, Jean
Ricqlès, Armand de
Huneman, Philippe
Gouyon, Pierre-Henri
et al.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Foundations of Science
Kluwer Academic
Cambridge University Press
Presses Universitaires de France
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Philosophy of biology
Natural selection
Adaptation (biology)
Spencer, Herbert
Darwin, Charles Robert
Kant, Immanuel
Linnaeus, Carolus
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
18th century
21st century
United States

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