Reductionistic Research Strategies and Their Biases in the Units of Selection Controversy



Butler’s satiric comment encapsulates the reductionistic spirit that made Darwinism objectionable to many in his own day, but has fared ever better as a prophetic characterization of the explanatory tenor of modern evolutionary biology. It preceded August Weismann’s doctrine of the continuity of the germ plasm advanced in his inaugural lecture in 1883 by some five years. As Weismann’s views became one of the anchor points of the modern ‘neo-Darwinian’ theory of evolution, they led to many modern recapitulations and elaborations of Butler’s epigram. Thus Richard Dawkins writes (1976, p. 21):


Gene Frequency Group Selection Epistatic Interaction Reproductive Rate Heuristic Procedure 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, and Committee on Conceptual Foundations of ScienceThe University of ChicagoUSA

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