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Selection and maximization

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The notion that evolution by natural selection is a process of fitness-maximization gets a bad press in population genetics, and understandably so. Yet in other areas of biology, the view that organisms behave as if maximizing their fitness (or, in cases of social behaviour, their inclusive fitness) remains widespread. In a series of recent papers, the Oxford geneticist Alan Grafen has sought to reconcile population genetics with fitness-maximization through a research programme he terms ‘Formal Darwinism’. In this paper, I explain and criticize this attempted rapprochement.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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