The Structural and Epistemic Changes to Evolutionary Theory Brought about by Multi-Level Selection

Project title: The Structural and Epistemic Changes to Evolutionary Theory Brought about by Multi-Level Selection

Project code: PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-2653

Contract number: 327/01.10.2015

Principal investigator: Ciprian Jeler

Abstract: This project proposes a new way of analyzing the relation between multi-level selection theory and the theory of natural selection in general. The idea behind this approach is that, if Darwin could, already in his Origin of Species, use an argument involving multi-level selection in order to save his theory of natural selection from what would otherwise have been, in his words, a “fatal objection”, then this argument could only hold if selection at multiple levels is precisely the same type of process as natural selection in general. As a consequence, if Darwin’s reasoning is to hold, then any modification that the notion of selection receives when applied at multiple levels needs to be incorporated in our general notion of natural selection (otherwise defending the theory of natural selection by way of an explanation involving multi-level selection would not take us very far). This project attempts to analyze the consequences of this idea both at a historical level (by studying the epistemic changes – or roles – that multi-level selection has already played in evolutionary theory) and at a theoretical level (by studying the structural changes that multi-level selection might bring about in evolutionary theory at present times).

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