Okasha's Unintended Argument for Toolbox Theorizing

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Waters, C. Kenneth
preprint description
Okasha claims at the outset of his book "Evolution and the Levels of Selection" (2006) that the Price equation lays bare the fundamentals underlying all selection phenomena. However, the thoroughness of his subsequent analysis of multi-level selection theories leads him to abandon his fundamentalist commitments. At critical points he invokes cost benefit analyses that sometimes favors the Price approach and sometimes the contextual approach, sometimes favors MLS1 and sometimes MLS2. And although he doesn’t acknowledge it, even the Price approach breaks down into a family of alternative equations that parse the causes in different ways, none of which is uniquely correct and none of which achieves the ultimate isolation of effects due to what Okasha believes are the fundamental causes. I argue that his book provides good reason to re-conceive our understanding of evolutionary theorizing in terms of a toolbox view (developed here) and to stop subjecting the analyses of evolutionary concepts to a universalist standard.