Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts

By John P. Hart; John Edward Terrell et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 13

Natural Selection

Robert D. Leonard and George T. Jones


INTRODUCTION

Perhaps no idea provided by Darwin is more significant than the concept of natural selection. Darwin (1959) defines it as follows: “[the] preservation of favourable variations, and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection.”

While reproduction is implied in Darwin's definition, the biologist Ernst Mayr makes the role of reproduction clear by stating that natural selection is “the differential reproduction of individuals that differ uniquely in their adaptive superiority” (1982:57). Here Darwin's “favorable variations” are Mayr's reason for “adaptive superiority.”

E. O. Wilson, perhaps the greatest evolutionary thinker of the latter quarter of the twentieth century, adds the concepts of genes and populations to his definition: “The differential contribution of offspring to the next generation by individuals of different genetic types but belonging to the same population” (Wilson 1975).

Hodge (1992) makes the point that natural selection is best conceptualized as an analog of artificial selection (human manipulation of animal and plant varieties), as was Darwin's intent when he coined the term “natural selection.” The difference between artificial selection and natural selection is that while people select the favorable characteristics in the former, nature does so in the latter. Darwin (1998:108) himself compared the respective efficacy of the two processes:

How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! how short his time! and consequently how poor will his products be, compared with those accumulated by nature

-225-

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Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Table of Key Words xv
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Adaptation 15
  • References 26
  • Chapter 3 - Biological Constraints 29
  • References 46
  • Chapter 4 - Cause 49
  • References 65
  • Chapter 5 - Classification 69
  • Chapter 6 - Complexity 89
  • Chapter 7 - Culture 107
  • References 123
  • Chapter 8 - Descent 125
  • Chapter 9 - History 143
  • Chapter 10 - Individuals 161
  • References 180
  • Chapter 11 - Learning 183
  • References 198
  • Chapter 12 - Models 201
  • Chapter 13 - Natural Selection 225
  • Chapter 14 - Population 243
  • About the Contributors 257
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