Natural Selection as a Mechanism

26 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2008 Last revised: 17 Dec 2008

See all articles by D. Benjamin Barros

D. Benjamin Barros

University of Toledo - College of Law

Date Written: December 12, 2008


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.

Keywords: Natural selection, mechanism, explanation

Suggested Citation

Barros, D. Benjamin, Natural Selection as a Mechanism (December 12, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

D. Benjamin Barros (Contact Author)

University of Toledo - College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States

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