PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Models of Major Evolutionary Transitions

Major evolutionary transitions theory attempts to identify and explain key shifts in the organization of life. Here I review problems with the received model of major transitions and argue that these problems flow from two limitations: first, a focus on ‘vertical’ complexity and inheritance that overlooks ‘horizontal’ coevolutionary interactions, and second an emphasis on transition types rather than token events. Alternative approaches avoid these limitations, but leave us with a plurality of models and little hope of unification. This is no reason to despair, however, since this pluralism is manageable and does not imply a radically contingent view of life.

Author Information:

Russell Powell    
Boston University


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