Levels of Selection Are Artefacts of Different Fitness Temporal Measures


  • I am particularly thankful to Kristie Miller and David Braddon-Mitchell who both encouraged me writing this paper. I am also thankful to Paul Griffiths, Adam Hochman, Robyn Kath and an anonymous reviewer Gladys Kostyrka, for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. I thank particularly Robyn Kath who had a thorough final check of the manuscript. This research was supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme DP0878650 and The International Postgraduate Research Scholarships from the University of Sydney.


In this paper I argue against the claim, recently put forward by some philosophers of biology and evolutionary biologists, that there can be two or more ontologically distinct levels of selection. I show by comparing the fitness of individuals with that of collectives of individuals in the same environment and over the same period of time – as required to decide if one or more levels of selection is acting in a population – that the selection of collectives is a by-product of selection at the individual level; thus, talking about two or more levels of selection represents merely a different perspective on one and the same process.