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Natural Selection as a Mechanism


D. Benjamin Barros


Widener University - School of Law

December 12, 2008


Abstract:     
Skipper and Millstein (2005) argued that existing conceptions of mechanisms failed to "get at" natural selection, but left open the possibility that a refined conception of mechanisms could resolve the problems that they identified. I respond to Skipper and Millstein, and argue that while many of their points have merit, their objections can be overcome and that natural selection can be characterized as a mechanism. In making this argument, I discuss the role of regularity in mechanisms, and develop an account of stochastic (i.e., probabilistic) mechanisms. Explaining the phenomenon of adaptation through the mechanism of natural selection illustrates the power and flexibility of using mechanistic strategies to explain natural phenomena.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: Natural selection, mechanism, explanation

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Date posted: December 12, 2008 ; Last revised: December 17, 2008

Suggested Citation

Barros, D. Benjamin, Natural Selection as a Mechanism (December 12, 2008). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1315321 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1315321

Contact Information

D. Benjamin Barros (Contact Author)
Widener University - School of Law ( email )
4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0474
United States
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