Talk:Natural selection

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Former good article Natural selection was one of the Natural sciences good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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Terminological problems with the term "selection"[edit]

Strictu sensu, the term "selection" needs a "selector", i.e., a person who "selects", e.g., a herd-breeder or theologian (like Charles Darwin himself), or a jewish-christian "god" (who breeds "the selected flock" or "selected race"). Hence, due to the jewish-christian roots of the term "selection", it is extremely interesting to see that the term "selection" is still used by so-called "neutral and objective" modern scientists. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 85.0.205.186 (talk) 14:00, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

There is a problem with the word 'selection', but the same problem is there for any other word we might try using instead: our language tends to be teleological, and we need a non-teleological term. Can you think of a better term? Maybe in some languages other than english there are better terms. Darwin (1860) complained that 'natural selection' is a bad term - because it sounds like an intentional process of selection is occurring. He suggested that maybe 'natural preservation' is a better term, but abandoned it because it "would not imply a preservation of particular varieties & would seem a truism"


Charles Darwin did not consider himself a theologian, especially not after he took his famous voyage. For example, in 1880 he wrote, "...freedom of thought will best be promoted by that gradual enlightenment of human understanding which follows the progress of science. I have therefore always avoided writing about religion and have confined myself to science.”
Do you have any evidence to claim otherwise?


Modern scientists should and usually do realise that we are not and cannot be "neutral and objective". Like everyone, scientists function as interdependent members of society, affected by history, and affected by our ways of looking at the world. Khaydock (talk) 03:49, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

observed or observable?[edit]

This may be a trivial point, but wouldn't the better word be "observable" rather than "observed"? Also, is it really part of the definition of natural selection to call it observed/observable. To make it clear, I am not arguing about whether natural selection can be (and has been) observed. I am merely suggesting that that information is more properly placed later in the article, rather than in the lede. TomS TDotO (talk) 17:28, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

Initial definition[edit]

I reverted the initial definition because the changes affected the meaning and connotations in slightly incorrect ways. The original wording was easier to understand and technically more correct. The word "function" is better than "result", because "function" allows for more complexity than cause and effect, which is what "result" implies. The term "differential reproductive success" is more technically correct, rather than "relative reproductive success" - (as used for example in [1]). The "interacting with" is important to include to emphasise the complex process of interaction that is occurring, rather than just the existence in the environment.Khaydock (talk) 18:09, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

I personally do not see the problems with "result" and "relative", which just seem simpler and less ambiguous words to me than "function" and "differential". And I do not see why you simply reverted all the attempts to make the word order better. But in any case we have to find some way to make this sentence better, surely? It is too long and complex. Behold:

Natural selection is the gradual natural process by which biological traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of the effect of inherited traits on the differential reproductive success of organisms interacting with their environment.

Can we split this up for example?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:25, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Good idea. My aim was to get the issue of environment in at the outset, the wording can be improved and splitting the sentence is worthwhile. . dave souza, talk 19:42, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

The initial definition should be made more succinct to allow people to get a quick idea of what natural selection is. If they want a more scientific idea they can scroll down the page to get a detailed definition. --Baldwinwt —Preceding undated comment added 18:52, 10 February 2014 (UTC)

Pre-Darwin Theory[edit]

I added a few very interesting quotes from Aristotle, showing his arguments for and against a sort of natural selection. Khaydock (talk) 04:33, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

It is rather a large insertion. Can it perhaps be compressed a bit? This article is one where we have to be a bit careful about adding too much. Keep in mind that there is an article about the history of evolutionary ideas where a lot of details have been split off to.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 05:55, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

Merge with "Selection"[edit]

Can someone merge this with Selection? Thanks! Peteruetz (talk) 15:07, 4 March 2014 (UTC)

Less is more[edit]

I think this article would be better if it tried to say less.

There is too much history, and the history is botched and old-fashioned. If you can't be bothered to read current historical scholarship, then you shouldn't be writing about the history of this topic. It is simply mistaken to suggest that Dobzhansky established the idea that mutation supplies the material on which selection acts. This was established much earlier by de Vries, Bateson, and others. The most important scholarly work on this topic in recent decades is Gayon's _Darwinism's Struggle for Survival_, which argues that Darwin's conception of natural selection was mechanistically yoked to blending inheritance of masses of variations, that this is why the scientific world was correct to abandon Darwin's original view upon the discovery of genetics, and that early geneticists (de Vries, Morgan, etc) carried off "the most important event in the history of Darwinism", which was to reconceive a principle of selection for the Mendelian world that Darwin and his early followers had denied. When mechanistically oriented scientists invoke selection today, they are using the geneticist's principle. It is very important to understand that most of what evolutionary biologists read about their history is garbage-- a fetishistic view of Darwin and his influence peddled by what historian Peter Bowler calls the "Darwin industry", and a self-serving history of the 20th century "synthesis" peddled by Fisher, Mayr, et al. to make Fisher, Mayr, et al look good. Some earlier historians of evolution such as Provine and Allen clearly were drinking Mayr's kool-aid, and Provine has been very open about this, and about how the view that he held in 1971 (when he wrote his famous history of theoretical population genetics) fell apart within a decade (read his later works, or the Afterword to the 2001 re-print of his 1971 book). Generally historians have caught on to "Synthesis Historiography" and are trying to get away from it, but this article is just replaying old myths.

The tone of the article has a significant aspect of justifying and glorifying the concept of natural selection, whereas advocacy is not the job of wikipedia. Obviously this is not the place to debate with creationists, but the editor is mistaken if he thinks that substantive scientific and philosophical issues are out of scope. The nature of selection, and the operational legitimacy of the concept, are issues debated by professional philosophers (e.g., Fodor and Palmarini-Piatelli, to name a recent prominent example). The current article cites Daniel Dennett-- are you aware that this guy is like the Dawkins of the philosophers, an extremist who is very articulate and bombastic? It is obviously relevant to this article to address scientific views of the scope and power of selection as an explanatory principle. That is, what do scientists believe about the extent to which natural selection shapes the biological world? Finally, the concept of natural selection is obviously a matter of confusion among practicing scientists. The current article demonstrates this confusion. For instance, the example of penicillin appears to attribute the "development" of penicillin resistance to "natural selection", but then also suggests that selection only eliminated non-resistant individuals. Which is it? Does natural selection cause traits to arise? Wouldn't the world be a better place if this article pointed out the confusion rather than quietly exemplifying it?

I think the solution to this is just to scale back the article, try to say less, and try to be more careful about what is said. The point is not to undermine the concept of selection or to glorify it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dabs (talkcontribs) 13:15, 1 April 2014 (UTC)

  1. ^ Campbell Biology (9th Edition) [Color] [Hardcover] Jane B. Reece (Author), Lisa A. Urry (Author), Michael L. Cain (Author), Steven A. Wasserman (Author), Peter V. Minorsky (Author), Robert B. Jackson (Author)