Thought I’d pull this passage out of GC Williams’s “Adaptation and Natural selection“. I was looking for it the other day, as I’m considering using it in my Evolution class, and couldn’t find it easily via google.
“Natural selection of phenotypes cannot in itself produce cumulative change, because phenotypes are extremely temporary manifestations. They are the result of interactions between genotype and environment that produces what we recognize as an individual. Such an individual consists of genotypic information and information recorded since conception. Socrates consisted of the genes his parents gave him, the experiences they and his environment later provided, and the growth a development mediated by numerous meals. For all I know, he may have been very successful in the evolutionary sense of leaving numerous offspring. His phenotype, nevertheless, was utterly destroyed by the hemlock and has never since been duplicated. If the hemlock had not killed him, something else soon would have. So however natural selection may have been acting on Greek phenotypes in the forth century B.C., it did not of itself produce any cumulative effect.
The same argument holds also for genotypes. With Socrates’ death, not only did his phenotype disappear, but also his genotype.[…] The loss of Socrates’ genotype is not assuaged by any consideration of how prolifically he may have reproduced. Socrates’ genes may be with us yet, but not his genotype, because meiosis and recombination destroy genotypes as surely as death.”