Emergence project seminar Apr 7 2021

Apr 7 2021 15:00 – 17:00: Celso Alves Neto (Dalhousie University)
What is it that Evolves?
Traditional formulations of natural selection assume that entities undergoing selection form lineages. This assumption motivates recent claims that multispecies microbial communities do not undergo selection. Yet, these claims are controversial in part because the role and nature of lineages are poorly understood. In this paper, I clarify these issues by revisiting David Hull’s notion of units of evolution. Lineages are units of evolution in traditional formulations of natural selection, while the entities that form lineages are units of selection. I revise this idea in two ways. First, we argue that lineages can also be units of selection. Second, I argue that units of evolution do not have to form clear parent-offspring relations. With this aim in mind, I analyze a set of borderline cases of lineage and the underlying notions of reproduction and inheritance. Our analysis offers a framework to compare traditional and more recent formulations of evolution by natural selection. It also helps to clarify how multispecies microbial communities might evolve.

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