Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Author's Response
Hull et al.: A general account of selection: Biology, immunology, and behavior

At last: Serious consideration

David L. Hull a1, Rodney E. Langman a2 and Sigrid S. Glenn a3
a1 Department of Philosophy, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208
a2 Conceptual Immunology Group, Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 92037
a3 Department of Behavior Analysis, University of North Texas, Denton TX 76203


For a long time, several natural phenomena have been considered unproblematically selection processes in the same sense of “selection.” In our target article we dealt with three of these phenomena: gene-based selection in biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens, and operant learning. We characterize selection in terms of three processes (variation, replication, and environmental interaction) resulting in the evolution of lineages via differential replication. Our commentators were largely supportive with respect to variation and environmental interaction but critical with respect to replication, in particular its appeal to information. With some reservations, our commentators think that our general analysis of selection may fit gene-based selection in biological evolution and the reaction of the immune system but not operant learning. If nothing else, this article shows that the notion of selection is not as straightforward as it may seem.