Niche construction and the role of environment: towards a new logic of natural selection explanations
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] I argue that natural selection explanations are not necessarily externalist, i.e. they don't always cite features of the environment as explanans. In the first chapter, I argue against the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness, which attributes fitness to internal abilities of individuals in a common environment, the latter dictating the selection of the population. However, for some populations, individuals construct different internal/external boundaries, preventing an explanatory boundary between internal and external at the level of the population. In the second chapter, I argue that niche construction, the ability of organisms to construct their experienced environments, can be either constitutive of or alternative to natural selection. Both reject explanatory externalism, a core feature of Adaptationism. An example of the latter is Niche Construction Theory, which decomposes population and environment into distinct evolutionary causes: Niche construction is from population to environment, while natural selection is from environment to population. An example of the former is Dialectical Biology and Situated Adaptationism, which show that population and environment resist decomposition into internal and environmental evolutionary causes. In the last chapter, I demonstrate that general Darwinism in organization theory explicitly assumes externalism. When organizations actively construct their conditions, the debates assume that natural selection do not occur or is ineffective. My previous analyses can show that selection occurs even when the organizations are constructing their external conditions.
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