Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality and Selection in Societal Evolution

Authored by: Matthew B. Dunn

Handbook on Evolution and Society

Print publication date:  January  2015
Online publication date:  November  2015

Print ISBN: 9781612058146
eBook ISBN: 9781315634203
Adobe ISBN: 9781317258339

10.4324/9781315634203.ch4

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Abstract

This chapter presents a theory of societal evolution where selection operates on corporate units. In presenting such a theory of societal evolution the chapter makes three broad claims. First, it outlines the group selection debate in both evolutionary biology and evolutionary sociology concluding that evolutionary sociologists should take a pluralistic approach to selection and move beyond the group selection debate. Second, it applies the logic of evolutionary transitions in individuality to human society, arguing that while societies do not meet the conditions required to qualify as evolutionary individuals, the corporate units within societies do meet these conditions, thus holding the status of evolutionary individuals. As evolutionary individuals are the units targeted by selection, corporate units are the units targeted by selection in societal evolution. Finally, it outlines Godfrey-Smith's (2009) five criteria that populations of interacting entities must meet to experience Darwinian selection processes. These five criteria are then applied to populations of corporate units, concluding that populations of corporate units do meet the criteria required for evolution via Darwinian selection.

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