Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 517–538 | Cite as

From survivors to replicators: evolution by natural selection revisited

  • Pierrick Bourrat


For evolution by natural selection to occur it is classically admitted that the three ingredients of variation, difference in fitness and heredity are necessary and sufficient. In this paper, I show using simple individual-based models, that evolution by natural selection can occur in populations of entities in which neither heredity nor reproduction are present. Furthermore, I demonstrate by complexifying these models that both reproduction and heredity are predictable Darwinian products (i.e. complex adaptations) of populations initially lacking these two properties but in which new variation is introduced via mutations. Later on, I show that replicators are not necessary for evolution by natural selection, but rather the ultimate product of such processes of adaptation. Finally, I assess the value of these models in three relevant domains for Darwinian evolution.


Evolution by natural selection Replicator Fitness Individual-based models Natural selection Diachronic 



I am thankful to Samuel Baron, Michael Duncan, Paul Griffiths, Johann Hariman, Adam Hochman, Robyn Kath, Arnon Levy, Kristie Miller, Mark Olson, Maureen O’Malley, Susanna Saracco, Kim Sterelny, Simon Varey, Elena Walsh, Michael Weisberg and two anonymous referees for their comments on an earlier version of this paper. I am especially grateful to Michael Duncan who proofread the English of the paper. I would also like to thank Peter Godfrey-Smith for discussions on this subject. This research was supported under Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme DP0878650 and an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship from the University of Sydney.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, School of Philosophical and Historical EnquiriesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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