A case reopened : teleology and its consequences for the units of selection discussion
Rossum, Joris van
SourceRivista di Biologia = Biology Forum, 96, 1, (2003), pp. 105-122
Article / Letter to editor
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Rivista di Biologia = Biology Forum
Darwinian explanations for teleology are often imprecise, and justify the occurrence of teleological features by referring to natural selection in a vague and unspecified sense. In this paper, the Darwinian account for teleology is further analyzed. It is argued that in theory only a specific form of teleology - teleology that is caused by and directed towards the preservation of the genetic program - can be explained in a naturalistic way by employing Darwin's theory of natural selection. This observation links teleology with the units of selection discussion, as for both discussions the end-direction of teleological processes and behavior is of elementary importance. According to Dawkins' analysis, the unit of selection is an active germ-like replicator with a sufficient degree of longevity-fecundity-copying fidelity. From the teleological point of view, the unit of selection should additionally incorporate the genetic program in order to naturalize teleology. It is shown that within sexually reproducing species these two requirements cannot be met. Dawkins' concept of genic selectionism cannot be maintained without violating the naturalistic claims on teleology, and none of the other frequently proposed unit of selection candidates can adequately meet the demands as developed by Dawkins and those developed in the light of teleology.
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