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Evolution and the Levels of Selection 1st Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199556717
ISBN-10: 0199556717
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Editorial Reviews


"Samir Okasha's wonderful new a philosophical examination of the conceptual framework that multi-level selection theory deploys...It is gratifying that his book engages the details of mathematical models and at the same time connects those details with broader philosophical questions."--Elliott Sober, Bioscience

"The current volume provides an exceptionally lucid and analyitically rigorous review of the main conceptual challenges facing biologists and philosophers who have engaged in this work."--Mark E. Borrello, The Quarterly Review of Biology

"Major contribution toward putting this controversial area on a coherent conceptual and philosophical footing. ... I can't imagine anyone working on multilevel selection-or attempting to dismiss it-without reading this book."--Science

"Every philosopher of biology interested in aspects of the levels of selection debates ought to confront this material, and should think seriously about how the positions he or she ahs staked out fits into the frameworks Okasha outlines. Okasha has written an extremely important book."--Jonathan Michael Kaplan, Notre Dame Philosophical Reivews

About the Author

Samir Okasha is Professor of Philosophy at Bristol University. Before that he taught at the University of York for 3 years, and was a Jacobsen Research Fellow at the London School of Economics for 2 years. He was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the National Univeristy of Mexico for 1 year and received his doctorate in 1998 from the University of Oxford.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199556717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199556717
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.7 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,586,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Charles on April 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is rare that you can find a thoughtful book on the subject of multilevel selection that actually critically reviews all sides of the subject. I have done considerable work in this area. I am pleased that he cites me appropriately and thoughtfully, and that he cites the relevant literature appropriately. That said, it is a technical book. I don't think I would recommend this as your first book on evolutionary theory, and it frankly is quite technical. However, if you want to know what the current controversy about group selection is all about then I strongly recommend this.

A few details: The center piece of this book is the comparison between the Price equation and contextual analysis. The Price equation is a method of partitioning covariances between a trait and relative fitness into within group and between group components. Contextual analysis is a multivariate regression approach in which a partial regression of traits measured on individuals and measured on groups are simultaneously examined. These two approaches follow from different philosophies and lead to different conclusions. Okasha discusses how these two views differ, and provides an excellent rational for choosing between these two approaches, provides important insights into how these two approaches color our view of multilevel selection
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I both love and hate this book. I love it because I am particularly interested in the 'Levels of Selection' problem in evolutionary science, and any book on this subject is a good book. But, I also hate it too. Let me begin with the reason why I hate it. Professor Okasha writes in the Introduction, "The book is aimed at evolutionary biologists, philosophers of science, and interested parties from other disciplines. It presumes a basic familiarity with Darwinian evolution, but I try to introduce every topic from scratch. Jargon, whether biological or philosophical, is avoided as much as possible, and explained where it is used. In places the treatment is slightly more technical than is customary in philosophical discussions, but no more so than is necessary to achieve clarity. Inevitably, different chapters will appeal more to some readers than others, depending on the reader's interests. The book is designed to be read as a whole, but there is an element of modularity." As one reviewer pointed out already, this book is technical - very technical. And this is why I hate it. Because this book was published for a general audience, as opposed to being published in a technical journal, I felt that Okasha could have perhaps sprinkled a few metaphors and analogies throughout the text to help explain some of the more difficult passages. It is only because I have "a basic familiarity with Darwinian evolution" that I was able to grind through this book. As an introduction to the `Levels of Selection' problem, I think this book would be entirely beyond the layman's reach. However, with that aside, I did also love this book; what follows are a few reasons why.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Mounts on July 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
A very good account of the concepts behind the multi-level selection (MLS) point of view. It is moderately technical but well within the reach of a layman (I am one, I should know). There was some terminology I had to look up and a few equations to digest, but nothing too complicated.

The focus is very much on the conceptual level and there isn't a lot of discussion of empirical findings (some but not a lot). Some of the ideas I took from the book are: natural selection is inherently an abstract concept that can apply at multiple levels, distinguishing between levels requires looking at the biological details (focusing on causation), there are two types of MLS that track different things (collectives themselves or particles in the collectives) and MLS1 is a little weird (in my opinion), gene's-eye-view and group selection are often equivalent ways of looking at things, and MLS plays a role in describing how the biological hierarchy evolved in the first place (rather than taking it as a given).

Anyone wanting to understand the multi-level selection controversy in biology won't go wrong in reading this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tim Tyler on December 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book contains an interesting and entertaining romp through the territory of group selection. It's what I call a "firehose presentation". In other words, it's a long stream of technical material that doesn't let up. This is a good match for my own preferences in a science book. Samir goes through practically every controversy in the field, and provides insightful opinions and commentary.

The book contains discussions of the Price equation and its significance, causality, emergence, evolutionary transitions, the gene's eye view, species selection, the group selection controversy and kin selection.

I thought the book was interesting and good. However, there were also quite a few parts of it which I disagreed with - or did not like. This is a reflection of the controversial nature of the subject matter.

The book dates from 2006. Throughout most of the history of the field of group selection, many of its advocates considered it to be a super-set of kin selection - often saying things like: relatedness is only one of many ways in which altruists can form groups which are then selected. However in recent years, the quest to find things that group selection explained - and that kin selection did not - seems to have petered out, with many of the most vocal group selection advocates now proclaiming its equivalence to kin selection. Samir's book predates many of these developments - and I suspect anyone writing a book on the subject today would treat the topic rather differently.

The book discusses kin selection only rather briefly. There's a discussion about it in the chapter relating to the group selection controversy, and another one in the chapter about evolutionary transitions.
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