Perverse engineering

Philosophy of Science 75 (4):437-446 (2008)
Evolutionary psychologists, among others, have used a method called “reverse engineering” to uncover ( a ) whether a trait was selected for, and ( b ) if so, why that trait was selected for. In this paper I argue that reverse engineering cannot deliver on either ( a ) or ( b ), and tends to pervert, rather than enhance, our knowledge of natural history. In particular, I expose as false a fundamental assumption of reverse engineering—namely, that all traits selected for a particular function will share some nontrivial properties. *Received March 2006; revised June 2008. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, 229 Major Williams Hall (0126), Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061; e‐mail:
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    References found in this work BETA
    Paul E. Griffiths (1996). The Historical Turn in the Study of Adaptation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (4):511-532.
    Tim Lewens (2002). Adaptationism and Engineering. Biology and Philosophy 17 (1):1-31.
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