The non-existence of a principle of natural selection
- Cite this article as:
- Shimony, A. Biol Philos (1989) 4: 255. doi:10.1007/BF02426626
The theory of natural selection is a rich systematization of biological knowledge without a first principle. When formulations of a proposed principle of natural selection are examined carefully, each is seen to be exhaustively analyzable into a proposition about sources of fitness and a proposition about consequences of fitness. But whenever the fitness of an organic variety is well defined in a given biological situation, its sources are local contingencies together with the background of laws from disciplines other than the theory of natural selection; and the consequences of fitness for the long range fate of organic varieties are essentially applications of probability theory. Hence there is no role and no need for a principle of the theory of natural selection, and any generalities that may hold in that theory are derivative rather than fundamental.