Natural Selection as a Mechanism
D. Benjamin Barros
University of Toledo - College of Law
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: Natural selection, mechanism, explanation
Date posted: December 12, 2008 ; Last revised: December 17, 2008