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The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus [Paperback]


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Book Description

1 Jun 1993
The Nature of Selection is a straightforward, self-contained introduction to philosophical and biological problems in evolutionary theory. It presents a powerful analysis of the evolutionary concepts of natural selection, fitness, and adaptation and clarifies controversial issues concerning altruism, group selection, and the idea that organisms are survival machines built for the good of the genes that inhabit them. "Sober's is the answering philosophical voice, the voice of a first-rate philosopher and a knowledgeable student of contemporary evolutionary theory. His book merits broad attention among both communities. It should also inspire others to continue the conversation". -Philip Kitcher, Nature "Elliott Sober has made extraordinarily important contributions to our understanding of biological problems in evolutionary biology and causality. The Nature of Selection is a major contribution to understanding epistemological problems in evolutionary theory. I predict that it will have a long lasting place in the literature". -Richard C. Lewontin

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"Elliott Sober's book strikes me as first rate. In fact, I think it would not be mere speculation to predict that it will transform the field. There has been nothing comparable to it, either in terms of sophisticated treatment of the biological issues or in terms of philosophical understanding."--Philip Kitcher, The University of Minnesota --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Elliot Sober, recipient of the 1991 Imre Lakatos Prize, is Hans Reichenbach Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Among his books are Reconstructing the Past and Philosophy of Biology.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Advanced And Analytical Dissection Of Evolutionary Selection 7 Mar 2012
By William G. Pratt - Published on Amazon.com
Sober's "The Nature Of Selection" is an intensely indepth examination of many questions raised in reviewing the findings of evolutionary biology, with especial emphasis on the "units of selection" controversy.
A consummate philosopher, Sober begins by explaining that the book is divided in two parts: the first is of more interest to philosophers without a biological background, and the second to biologists who are curious about why philosophers of science are "sticking their nose into" evolutionary theory. Given the primary thrust of the book, the second section is supposed to be of special interest to all readers, as this is where Sober shines in his attempt to clarify a few of the questions raised in the philosophy of science regarding evolution and why that is important to strict naturalists as well.
This book is so jampacked with examples and critical reviews of some of the major & minor examples of evolution in action that it is hard in a limited space review to really go into a proper critique of the text. This book is 383 pages of postgraduate-level analysis of the some of the fundamental theorems and explanations behind how we should define such terms as the "unit of selection" and "altruism". As such, this is not recommended to anyone without a formal background in biology and/or philosophy.
The merging of the two aforementioned disciplines is something that has appeared in recent years to become almost tacit in instruction. I took a Philosophy of Science course in 2000 and even though we did not deal with the specific issues in this book (with the exception of the so-called "Tautology Problem"), I notice a difference between what was taught in class and the general tone of the Introduction to this 1984 publication. Unless I read him wrong, it appears as if Sober's suggestions of the intrusiveness of philosophy into biology has been eased over time. As such, one could potentially argue that part of the value behind reading this book would be to see the underpinnings of what would later become standard questioning amongst biological theorists.
All in all, this book is for college-level graduates with a background in either biology and/or philosophy who wish to examine some of the major issues raised in the study of natural selection. 4 stars for overall content, lacking a basic glossary for ease of reference.
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