Fitness "kinematics": Biological function, altruism, and organism-environment development

Academic Article


  • Its recently been argued that biological fitness can't change over the course of an organism's life as a result of organisms' behaviors. However, some characterizations of biological function and biological altruism tacitly or explicitly assume that an effect of a trait can change an organism's fitness. In the first part of the paper, I explain that the core idea of changing fitness can be understood in terms of conditional probabilities defined over sequences of events in an organism's life. The result is a notion of "conditional fitness" which is static but which captures intuitions about apparent behavioral effects on fitness. The second part of the paper investigates the possibility of providing a systematic foundation for conditional fitness in terms of spaces of sequences of states of an organism and its environment. I argue that the resulting "organism-environment history conception" helps unify diverse biological perspectives, and may provide part of a metaphysics of natural selection. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Abrams M
  • Start Page

  • 487
  • End Page

  • 504
  • Volume

  • 24
  • Issue

  • 4