Modelling Evolution: A New Dynamic Account, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Modelling Evolution

A New Dynamic Account, 1st Edition

By Eugene Earnshaw-Whyte


145 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780367360047
pub: 2019-08-31
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pub: 2018-07-26
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Evolution by natural selection explains the tree of life and the complex adaptations found throughout nature. The power and versatility of evolutionary explanations have proved tempting to scientists outside of biology, but adapting evolutionary concepts to new domains has been challenging. Even within biology, there are many difficult questions and problem cases that face evolutionary theory.

Modelling Evolution offers a new, general account of evolution by natural selection that identifies the essential features of evolutionary models that transcend any particular discipline. Evolution by natural selection in its broad sense is the systemic advantage of a type, in contrast to the narrow definition using heritable variation in fitness. This account is explained, contextualised and applied to a variety of questions in both biology and the social sciences.

Offering an accessible and comprehensive account of evolution that is applicable both to biology and the broader social sciences, Modelling Evolution will appeal to students and researchers interested in fields such as biology, economics, sociology, history, and psychology.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Basic Evolutionary Concepts

Adaptation, fitness

And dandelions

Chance and basketball

Types and individuals


The original recipe

Systemic advantage of a type


Collections of individuals

Traits and types

Evolutionary Processes

In General

The Bias

Processes in Population Genetics

Selection as process

Selection v. Drift

Chance and Lightning

Discriminate v. Indiscriminate

Fixation in the population via drifty discriminate sampling

Expected and unexpected

Expecting the unexpected

Process vs. Outcome

The Evolutionary System


Chapter 2: The History of the Evolutionary Idea

Pausing for Context


Variation and heredity


What evolves

Darwin’s Evolutionary Processes


Evolution: Selection vs. Mutation

Fisher and fitness

Heredity, mutation, and genes

Adaptation and Heredity


The definition of evolution by natural selection

Segregation distortion and multilevel selection

Individual fitness and group fitness


Evolutionary forces

Fitness: Early Sober and Fisher compared

The Neodynamical account


Chapter 3: Evolutionary Forces

From Process to Force

The causal hierarchy

Functions of Time and Continuity

Causal variables vs. processes

Force Models

The three basic types of evolutionary force



Broad Selection

Heredity and Evolution by Natural Selection

Selection for traits and context dependence

Types of Drift


Chapter 4: Multilevel Selection


The evolutionary transitions from individual to part

Fungi and biological individuals


Kin Selection

Multilevel selection a la Lewontin

MLS 1, MLS 2, and contextual analysis

Contextual analysis and mus muscula

Three kinds of multilevel evolutionary models

More distinctions? Yes indeed

Multilevel Fitness models

Multilevel Force models

Multilevel Trait models


Chapter 5: Cultural Evolution


The specter of biologism

The problem with replicators

Cultural Traits

Reproduction in Cultural Evolution


Boyd and Richerson

Looking at a model: farming practices

Lamarck and Technological Evolution

Novelty and guided variation (in evolutionary economics)


This could be important

For example in sociology


Chapter 6: Multilevel Social Evolution


Human groups and cultural individuals

Altruism in human societies

An extended illustration

Turchin on the historical evolution of egalitarianism


An alternative, multilevel approach

A model of multilevel cultural macroevolution

Developing the schema

Evaluating and adjusting

Specifying and Analysing


About the Author

Eugene Earnshaw teaches History of Western Civilization, Sociology and Critical Thinking in the Liberal Arts program, Seneca College, Toronto, Canada

About the Series

History and Philosophy of Biology

This series explores significant developments in the life sciences from historical and philosophical perspectives. Historical episodes include Aristotelian biology, Greek and Islamic biology and medicine, Renaissance biology, natural history, Darwinian evolution, Nineteenth-century physiology and cell theory, Twentieth-century genetics, ecology, and systematics, and the biological theories and practices of non-Western perspectives. Philosophical topics include individuality, reductionism and holism, fitness, levels of selection, mechanism and teleology, and the nature-nurture debates, as well as explanation, confirmation, inference, experiment, scientific practice, and models and theories vis-à-vis the biological sciences.

Authors are also invited to inquire into the "and" of this series. How has, does, and will the history of biology impact philosophical understandings of life? How can philosophy help us analyze the historical contingency of, and structural constraints on, scientific knowledge about biological processes and systems? In probing the interweaving of history and philosophy of biology, scholarly investigation could usefully turn to values, power, and potential future uses and abuses of biological knowledge.

The scientific scope of the series includes evolutionary theory, environmental sciences, genomics, molecular biology, systems biology, biotechnology, biomedicine, race and ethnicity, and sex and gender. These areas of the biological sciences are not silos, and tracking their impact on other sciences such as psychology, economics, and sociology, and the behavioral and human sciences more generally, is also within the purview of this series.

Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and Visiting Scholar of Philosophy at Stanford University (2015-2016). He works in the philosophy of science and philosophy of biology and has strong interests in metaphysics, epistemology, and political philosophy, in addition to cartography and GIS, cosmology and particle physics, psychological and cognitive science, and science in general. Recent publications include "The Structure of Scientific Theories," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and "Race and Biology," The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race. His book with University of Chicago Press, When Maps Become the World, is forthcoming.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General