Blackwell Publishing

The units of selection - Why are adaptations mainly at the level of the organism?


Why does the argument matter?

It is important to know what the ultimate beneficiaries of adaptations are. When we are trying to explain the existence of particular characters, we need to know whether a proposed explanation is correct. The argument that genes are units of selection provides the fundamental logic that is used to find out. We imagine different genetic forms of the character, and the correct explanation must specify how the genes for the observed form of the character will out-reproduce other genetic types.

In practice, there may be several possible hypotheses, and they can be tested between by the methods described in the preceding tutorial; but before those methods are applied, we have to ensure that the hypotheses make theoretical sense. We can rule out a hypothesis about adaptation before the practical testing stage if it contradicts the theory of gene selection.

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