Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Selection Skirmishes   posted by Razib @ 3/21/2006 05:21:00 AM

Rob Skipper has a post where he cooks up a different concoction of natural selection, and John Hawks responds, to which Skipper answers with his own rejoinder. It is well worth reading and pondering all of it. The seed from which the exchange grew isn't that interesting to me, the definition of natural selection. My own view is more expansive than Skipper's, and frankly, perhaps even more than John's since I suspect I try and slot a lot of culturally mediated selection into the umbrella of "nature." But I think ruminations of this sort can be fruitful in allowing us to grapple and dance with the basic fundamental concepts of evolutionary and population genetics. Semantics are tiresome, and yet they are necessary for any genuine discussion (see the persistent confusion over the term "heritability" even on this weblog). This is especially true in a partly a priori discipline rooted in theory and deduction from particular premises. In a fashion evolutionary biology in its more abstract waters is like Talmudic study, we must wrestle and ponder the concepts with deep respect and genuine reverence, because in the reifications lay the ultimate answers to the engine of life's diversity.