This paper critically examines Jerry Fodor's latest attacks on evolutionary psychology. Contra Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, Fodor argues (i) there is no reason to think that human cognition is a Darwinian adaptation in the first place, and (ii) there is no valid inference from adaptationism about the mind to massive modularity. However, Fodor maintains (iii) that there is a valid inference in the converse direction, from modularity to adaptationism, but (iv) that the language module is an exception (...) to the validity of this inference. I explore Fodor's arguments for each of these claims, and the interrelations between them. I argue that Fodor is incorrect on point (i), correct on point (ii), partially correct on point (iii), and incorrect on point (iv). Overall, his critique fails to show that adopting a broadly Darwinian approach to cognition is intellectually indefensible. (shrink)
Strong adaptationists explore complex organic design as taskspecific adaptations to ancestral environments. This strategy seems best when there is evidence of homology. Weak adaptationists don't assume that complex organic (including cognitive and linguistic) functioning necessarily or primarily represents taskspecific adaptation. This approach to cognition resembles physicists' attempts to deductively explain the most facts with fewest hypotheses. For certain domainspecific competencies (folkbiology) strong adaptationism is useful but not necessary to research. With grouplevel belief systems (religion) strong adaptationism degenerates into (...) spurious notions of social function and cultural selection. In other cases (language, especially universal grammar) weak adaptationism's 'minimalist' approach seems productive. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychologists attempt to infer our evolved psychology from the selection pressures present in our ancestral environments. Their use of this inference strategy?often called ?adaptive thinking??is thought to be justified by way of appeal to a rather modest form of adaptationism, according to which the mind's adaptive complexity reveals it to be a product of selection. I argue, on the contrary, that the mind's being an adaptation is only a necessary and not a sufficient condition for the validity of (...) adaptive thinking, and that evolutionary psychology's predictive project is in fact committed to an extremely strong and highly implausible form of adaptationism. According to this ?strong adaptationism,? the macroevolutionary trajectory of a population is determined by, and therefore predictable on the basis of, the selection pressures acting upon it. Not only is this form of adaptationism prima facie highly implausible, it requires making a number of naïve and likely false assumptions concerning the nature of heritable phenotypic variation in natural populations. In particular, it assumes that phenotypic variation is inevitably small in its extent, unbiased in its direction, and copious in its quantity. Because it is unlikely that these conditions obtain as a general rule, and even more unlikely that they obtained in early human populations, I conclude that there is little reason to believe that adaptive thinking can be used to infer the current structure of our minds from evidence of past selection pressures. (shrink)
Twenty years have passed since Gould and Lewontin published their critique of ‘the adaptationist program’ – the tendency of some evolutionary biologists to assume, rather than demonstrate, the operation of natural selection. After the ‘Spandrels paper’, evolutionists were more careful about producing just-so stories based on selection, and paid more attention to a panoply of other processes. Then came reactions against the excesses of the anti-adaptationist movement, which ranged from a complete dismissal of Gould and Lewontin’s contribution to a positive (...) call to overcome the problems. We now have an excellent opportunity for finally affirming a more balanced and pluralistic approach to the study of evolutionary biology. (shrink)
Godfrey-Smith ( 2001 ) has distinguished three types of adaptationism. This article builds on his analysis, and revises it in places, by distinguishing seven varieties of adaptationism. This taxonomy allows us to clarify what is at stake in debates over adaptationism, and it also helps to cement the importance of Gould and Lewontin’s ‘Spandrels’ essay. Some adaptationists have suggested that their essay does not offer any coherent alternative to the adaptationist programme: it consists only in an exhortation (...) to test adaptationist hypotheses more thoroughly than was usual in the 1970s. Here it is argued that the ‘Spandrels’ paper points towards a genuinely non-adaptationist methodology implicit in much evolutionary developmental biology. This conclusion helps to expose the links between older debates over adaptationism and more recent questions about the property of evolvability. (shrink)
Two critiques of simple adaptationism are distinguished: anti-adaptationism and extended adaptationism. Adaptationists and anti-adaptationists share the presumption that an evolutionary explanation should identify the dominant simple cause of the evolutionary outcome to be explained. A consideration of extended-adaptationist models such as coevolution, niche construction and extended phenotypes reveals the inappropriateness of this presumption in explaining the evolution of certain important kinds of features—those that play particular roles in the regulation of organic processes, especially behavior. These biological or (...) behavioral ‘levers’ are distinctively available for adaptation and exaptation by their possessors and for co-optation by other organisms. As a result they are likely to result from a distinctive and complex type of evolutionary process that conforms neither to simple adaptationist nor to anti-adaptationist styles of explanation. Many of the human features whose evolutionary explanation is most controversial belong to this category, including the female orgasm. (shrink)
The so-called "adaptationism" of mainstream evolutionary biology has been criticized from a variety of sources. One, which has received relatively little philosophical attention, is developmental biology. Developmental constraints are said to be neglected by adaptationists. This paper explores the divergent methodological and explanatory interests that separate mainstream evolutionary biology from its embryological and developmental critics. It will focus on the concept of constraint itself; even this central concept is understood differently by the two sides of the dispute.
Debate about adaptationism in biology continues, in part because within “the” problem of assessing adaptationism, three distinct problems are mixed together. The three problems concern the assessment of three distinct adaptationist positions, each of which asserts the central importance of adaptation and natural selection to the study of evolution, but conceives this importance in a different way. As there are three kinds of adaptationism, there are three distinct "anti-adaptationist" positions as well. Or putting it more formally, there (...) are three different dimensions here, and strongly adaptationist views, strongly anti-adaptationist views, and moderate views are possible for each dimension. (shrink)
Debates over adaptationism can be clarified and partially resolved by careful consideration of the ‘grain’ at which evolutionary processes are described. The framework of ‘adaptive landscapes’ can be used to illustrate and facilitate this investigation. We argue that natural selection may have special status at an intermediate grain of analysis of evolutionary processes. The cases of sickle-cell disease and genomic imprinting are used as case studies.
Two decades ago, the eminent evolutionary biologist George C. Williams and his physician coauthor, Randolph Nesse, formulated the evolutionary medicine research program. Williams and Nesse explicitly made adaptationism a core component of the new program, which has served to undermine the program ever since, distorting its practitioners’ perceptions of evidentiary burdens and in extreme cases has served to warp practitioner’s understandings of the relationship between evolutionary benefits/detriments and medical ones. I show that the Williams and Nesse program more particularly (...) embraces the panselectionist variety of adaptationism (the empirical assumption that non-adaptive evolutionary processes are causally unimportant compared to natural selection), and argue that this has harmed the field. Panselectionism serves to conceal the enormous evidentiary hurdles that evolutionary medicine hypotheses face, making them appear stronger than they are. I use two examples of evolutionary medicine texts, on neonatal jaundice and on asthma, to show that some evolutionary medicine practitioners have allowed their fervent panselectionism to directly shape their recommendations for clinical practice. I argue that this escalation of panselectionism’s influence is inappropriate under Williams’ and Nesse original stated standards, despite being inspired by their program. I also show that the examples’ conflation of clinical and evolutionary considerations is inappropriate even under Christopher Boorse’s controversial evolution-rooted concepts of disease and health. (shrink)
The rights and wrongs of adaptationism areoften discussed by appeal to what I call theartefact model. Anti-adaptationistscomplain that the use of optimality modelling,reverse engineering and other techniques areindicative of a mistaken and outmoded beliefthat organisms are like well-designedartefacts. Adaptationists (e.g. Dennett 1995)respond with the assertion that viewingorganisms as though they were well designed isa fruitful, perhaps necessary research strategyin evolutionary biology. Anti-adaptationistsare right when they say that techniques likereverse engineering are liable to mislead. This fact does not undermine the (...) artefact modelprecisely because the same techniques misleadus for the same reasons when they are appliedunreflectively to artefacts. Thoseadaptationists who hold only that it isworthwhile to investigate organisms as thoughthey were artefacts and thoseanti-adaptationists who criticise simplisticdesign models have far more in common than thelabels attached to their positions mightsuggest. (shrink)
Andrews et al. effectively argue that, despite prominent criticism, adaptationism can be a viable research strategy. We agree. In our complementary commentary, we discuss the neglected method of inference to the best explanation and argue that it is a valuable addition to the adaptationist's methodological practice.
In our target article, we discussed the standards of evidence that could be used to identify adaptations, and argued that building an empirical case that certain features of a trait are best explained by exaptation, spandrel, or constraint requires the consideration, testing, and rejection of adaptationist hypotheses. We are grateful to the 31 commentators for their thoughtful insights. They raised important issues, including the meaning of “exaptation”; whether Gould and Lewontin's critique of adaptationism was primarily epistemological or ontological; the (...) necessity, sufficiency, or utility of design evidence, phylogenetic analyses, homology, and molecular genetics in distinguishing exaptations from adaptations; whether adaptationists accept adaptationist hypotheses too quickly; and the real utility of adaptationism to human behavioral science. We organize our response along the major points of the target article, in some situations defending our original claims and in others modifying them. While debate on these issues will undoubtedly continue, we are cautiously optimistic that the main points of the target article (as modified by our response) will help move the debate in a positive direction. (shrink)
This contribution to the adaptationism debate elaborates the nature of constraints and their importance in evolutionary explanation and argues that the adaptationism debate should be limited to the issue of how to privilege causes in evolutionary explanation. I argue that adaptationist explanations are deeply conceptually dependent on developmental constraints, and explanations that appeal to constraints are dependant on the results of natural selection. I suggest these explanations should be integrated into the framework of historical causal explanation. Each strategy (...) explicitly appeals to some aspect of the evolutionary process, while implicitly appealing to others. Thus, adaptationists and anti-adaptationists can offer complementary causal explanations of the same explanandum. This eliminates much of the adaptationism debate and explains why its adversaries regularly agree with each other more than they would like. The adaptationism issue that remains is a species of the general issue of how to privilege causes in explanation. I show how a proposed solution to this general problem might be brought to bear on evolutionary explanations, and investigate some difficulties that might arise due to the nature of the evolutionary process. (shrink)
In this paper, I will take advantage of the controversy on the legitimacy of adaptationism in evolutionary biology to further investigate the nature of adaptationistic thinking, or biological explanations in general. To this end, first I will look at the famous and provocative criticism made by Gould and Lewontin (1979) against then-prevalent adaptationism --- a research strategy for accounting for the origin of traits of organisms seemingly adapted to the environment by appealing primarily to natural selection. Then I (...) will consider its counterarguments put forward by Dennett (1995), one of the proponents of adaptationism, in order toscrutinize the intrinsically hypothetical character of adaptationistic thinking. By amplifying Dennett’s points, I will finally reach the conclusion that there are two senses --- objective and subjective --- in which adaptationistic thinking is said to be hypothetical, which nonetheless do not prevent it from qualifying as scientific practice. In the process, I will also gain an insight into the sense in which the theory of natural selection is said to be mechanistic, as a spin-off. (shrink)
It is often thought that if an adaptationist explanation of some behavioural phenomenon is true, then this fact shows that a culturist explanation of the very same phenomenon is false, or else the adaptationist explanation preempts or crowds out the culturist explanation in some way. This chapter shows why this so-called competition thesis is misguided. Two evolutionary models are identified — the Information Learning Model and the Strategic Learning Model — which show that adaptationist reasoning can help explain why cultural (...) learning evolved. These models suggest that there will typically be a division of labor between adaptationist and culturist explanations. It is then shown that the Strategic Learning Model, which has been widely neglected by adaptationist thinkers, has important and underappreciated implications for a question that has long been contentious in the behavioural sciences — the question of the malleability of human nature. (shrink)
In recent times evolutionary psychologists have offered adaptation explanations for a wide range of human psychological characteristics. Critics, however, have argued that such endeavors are problematic because the appropriate evidence required to demonstrate adaptation is unlikely to be forthcoming, therefore severely limiting the role of the adaptationist program in psychology. More specifically, doubts have been raised over both the methodology employed by evolutionary psychologists for studying adaptations and about the possibility of ever developing acceptably rigorous evolutionary explanations of human psychological (...) phenomena. We argue that by employing a wide range of methods for inferring adaptation and by adopting an inference to the best explanation strategy for evaluating adaptation explanations, these two doubts can be adequately addressed. We illustrate how this approach can be fruitfully employed in evaluating claims about the evolutionary origins of language, and conclude with a brief discussion of the future of evolutionary psychology. (shrink)
1 Adaptationism is a research strategy that seeks to identify adaptations and the specific selective forces that drove their evolution in past environments. Since the mid-1970s, paleontologist Stephen J. Gould and geneticist Richard Lewontin have been critical of adaptationism, especially as applied toward understanding human behavior and cognition. Perhaps the most prominent criticism they made was that adaptationist explanations were analogous to Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories (outlandish explanations for questions such as how the elephant got its trunk). (...) Since storytelling (through the generation of hypotheses and the making of inferences) is an inherent part of science, the criticism refers to the acceptance of stories without sufficient empirical evidence. In particular, Gould, Lewontin, and their colleagues argue that adaptationists often use inappropriate evidentiary standards for identifying adaptations and their functions, and that they often fail to consider alternative hypotheses to adaptation. Playing prominently in both of these criticisms are the concepts of constraint, spandrel, and exaptation. In this article we discuss the standards of evidence that could be used to identify adaptations and when and how they may be appropriately used. Moreover, building an empirical case that certain features of a trait are best explained by exaptation, spandrel, or constraint requires demonstrating that the trait's features cannot be better accounted for by adaptationist hypotheses. Thus, we argue that the testing of alternatives requires the consideration, testing, and systematic rejection of adaptationist hypotheses. Where possible, we illustrate our points with examples taken from human behavior and cognition. Key Words: adaptation; ADHD; brain allometry; constraint; epistemology; evolutionary psychology; exaptation; female orgasm; optimization; special design; waist-hip ratio (WHR). Footnotes1 The authors contributed equally to this paper. Order of authorship was determined alphabetically. Correspondence may be addressed to any of the authors. (shrink)
Elliott Sober (1987, 1993) and Orzack and Sober (forthcoming) argue that adaptationism is a very general hypothesis that can be tested by testing various particular hypotheses that invoke natural selection to explain the presence of traits in populations of organisms. In this paper, I challenge Sobers claim that adaptationism is an hypothesis and I argue that it is best viewed as a heuristic (or research strategy). Biologists would still have good reasons for employing this research strategy even if (...) it turns out that natural selection is not the most important cause of evolution. (shrink)
Attempts to explain human behavior that appeal to economic rationality share many of the same ontological as- sumptions and methodological practices that the so-called ‘adaptationist program’ in biology was criticized for. This program in biology was largely abandoned by biologists as poorly motivated, and replaced with the active testing of both adaptive and non-adaptive hypotheses regarding the spread and maintenance of traits in populations. This development was largely welcome by the biological <span class='Hi'>community</span>, despite having required the development of new (...) tools, both conceptual and method- ological. Many analysts of contemporary microeconomic practice criticize the assumptions and practices employed therein as similarly poorly motivated. Close attention to these criticisms reveal them to have more than superficial similarities to the critiques of adaptationism in biology. These similarities extend to some macroeconomics researchers recent suggestions of ways that hypotheses regarding the causes of people’s actions might be tested; as yet, however, these suggestions have not been embraced by the field as a whole. By attending to the ways in which biological practice has moved beyond the adaptationist program, similar changes in economic practice may be motivated. (shrink)
We describe delusional disorder–jealous type (“morbid jealousy”) with the adaptationist perspective used by Darwinian psychiatrists and evolutionary psychologists to explain the relatively common existence and continued prevalence of mental disorders. We then apply the “harmful dysfunction” analysis to morbid jealousy, including a discussion of this disorder as (1) an end on a continuum of normal jealousy or (2) a discrete entity. (Published Online November 9 2006).
The target article shows that the application of the evolutionary theory to psychopathology should not necessarily consist in finding hidden adaptive benefits for each psychiatric syndrome. However, in rejecting lax adaptationism, Darwinian psychiatrists should not forget that the search for adaptive behavioral polymorphisms can be a powerful antidote against the normative attitude of mainstream psychiatry and its growing tendency to medicalize human diversity. (Published Online November 9 2006).
Methodological analysis shows that the concepts of fitness and adaptation are more complex than the literature suggests. Various arguments against adaptationism are inadequate since they are couched in terms of unduly simplistic notions.
Strong adaptationists would explain complex organic designs as specific adaptations to particular ancestral environments. Weak adaptationists don't assume that complex organic functioning represents evolutionary design in the sense of niche-specific adaptation. For some domain-specific competencies (folkbiology) strong adaptationism is useful, not necessary. With group-level belief systems (religion), strong adaptationism can become spurious pseudo-adaptationism. In other cases (language), weak adaptationism proves productive.
Andrews et al. present a form of instrumental adaptationism that is designed to test the hypothesis that a given trait is an adaptation. This epistemological commitment aims to make clear statements about behavioural natural kinds. The instrumental logic is sound, but it is the limits of our empirical imagination that can cause problems for theory construction.
Rather than starting with traits and speculating whether selective forces drove evolution in past environments, we propose starting with a candidate gene associated with a trait and testing first for patterns of selection at the DNA level. This can provide limitations on the number of traits to be evaluated subsequently by adaptationism as described by Andrews et al.
The adaptationist framework is necessary and sufficient for unifying the social and natural sciences. Gintis's “beliefs, preferences, and constraints” (BPC) model compares unfavorably to this framework because it lacks criteria for determining special design, incorrectly assumes that standard evolutionary theory predicts individual rationality maximisation, does not adequately recognize the impact of psychological mechanisms on culture, and is mute on the behavioural implications of intragenomic conflict. (Published Online April 27 2007).
In Chapter Five of The Mind Doesn’t Work That Way, Jerry Fodor argues that since it is likely that human minds evolved quickly as saltations rather than gradually as the product of an accumulation of small mutations, evolutionary psychologists are wrong to think that human minds are adaptations. I argue that Fodor’s requirement that adaptationism entails gradualism is wrongheaded. So, while evolutionary psychologists may be wrong to endorse gradualism—and I argue that they are wrong—it does not follow that they (...) are wrong to endorse an adaptationist explanation for how the human mind evolved. (shrink)
In his recent book on Darwinism, Daniel Dennett has offered up a species of a priori selectionism that he calls algorithmic. He used this view to challenge a number of positions advocated by Stephen J. Gould. I examine his algorithmic conception, review his unqualified enthusiasm for the a priori selectionist position, challenge Dennett's main metaphors (cranes vs. skyhooks and a design space), examine ways in which his position has lead him to misunderstand or misrepresent Gould (spandrels, exaptation, punctuated equilibrium, contingency (...) and disparity), and discuss recent results in developmental biology that suggest that an a priori position does not fill the demands of an evolutionary biology. I conclude by insisting that evolutionary biology is many leveled, complicated, and is carried on an ever shifting and expanding empirical base that when disregarded results in caricature. (shrink)
I consider some hitherto unexplored examples of teleological language in the sciences. In explicating these examples, I aim to show (a) that such language is not the sole preserve of the biological sciences, and (b) that not all such talk is reducible to the ascription of functions. In chemistry and biochemistry, scientists explaining molecular rearrangements and protein folding talk informally of molecules rearranging “in order to” maximize stability. Evolutionary biologists, meanwhile, often speak of traits evolving “in order to” optimize some (...) fitness-relevant variable. I argue that in all three contexts such locutions are best interpreted as shorthands for more detailed explanations which, were we to spell them out in full, would show that the relevant process would robustly converge towards the same end-point despite variation in initial conditions. This suggests that, in biology, such talk presupposes a substantial form of adaptationism. The upshot is that such shorthands may be more applicable in the physical sciences than the biological. (shrink)
This paper offers an evolutionary account of chronic pain. Chronic pain is a maladaptive by-product of pain mechanisms and neural plasticity, both of which are highly adaptive. This account shows how evolutionary psychology can be integrated with Flanagan's natural method, and in a way that avoids the usual charges of panglossian adaptationism and an uncritical commitment to a modular picture of the mind. Evolutionary psychology is most promising when it adopts a bottom-up research strategy that focuses on basic affective (...) and motivational systems (as opposed to higher cognitive functions) that are phylogenetically deep. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Potochnik (Biol Philos 24(2):183–197, 2009) analyses some uses of optimality modelling in light of the anti-adaptationism criticism. She distinguishes two broad classes of such uses (weak and strong) on the basis of assumptions held by biologists about the role and the importance of natural selection. This is an interesting proposal that could help in the epistemological characterisation of some biological practices. However, Potochnik’s distinction also rests on the assumption that all optimality modelling represent the selection (...) dynamic involved in the system of phenomena being considered. Since this assumption does not hold for models belonging to optimal foraging theory (OFT)—one of behavioural ecology’s important modelling traditions—Potochnik’s proposal has to be critically reappraised. In this paper, we briefly discuss what is optimality modelling and what it means for a model to represent a dynamic of selection or of evolution. Then, we demonstrate that OFT modelling is unable to represent either past or contemporary selection dynamics. In order to make this point, we carefully delineate the theory’s rationale. This allows us to identify and analyse the assumptions on which the theory is built, and to circumscribe precisely the role that natural selection plays in it. Next, we show that the distinction of weak and strong uses of optimality modelling is seriously weakened when OFT modelling is taken into account. More precisely, the distinction is either irrelevant (if the assumption that selection dynamics are represented in all optimality modelling is held) or of a modest utility (if the assumption is dropped). However, we suggest that Potochnik’s original proposal could be saved, and that it even constitutes a tool to appraise the marks left in the literature by the evolution of optimality modelling practices in the last four decades, provided that it is made into a tripartite distinction. (shrink)
In the current dialogue of “science and religion,” it is widely assumed that the thoughts of Darwinists and that of atheists overlap. However, Jerry Fodor, a full-fledged atheist, recently announced a war against Darwinism with his atheistic campaign. Prima facie, this “civil war” might offer a chance for theists: If Fodor is right, Darwinistic atheism will lose the cover of Darwinism and become less tenable. This paper provides a more pessimistic evaluation of the situation by explaining the following: Fodor’s criticism (...) of adaptationism (as the backbone of Darwinism), viz., his refutation of any counterfactual-supporting laws on the macro-evolutionary level, implies that a law-maker is dispensable on this level. This will either encourage skepticism against the omniscience (at least that concerning the future of macro-evolution) of the Creator, or render the notion of God less appealing. (shrink)
This response (a) integrates non-equilibrium evolutionary genetic models, such as coevolutionary arms-races and recent selective sweeps, into a framework for understanding common, harmful, heritable mental disorders; (b) discusses the forms of ancestral neutrality or balancing selection that may explain some portion of mental disorder risk; and (c) emphasizes that normally functioning psychological adaptations work against a backdrop of mutational and environmental noise. (Published Online November 9 2006).
The “straw man” prior expectation of the dominant social psychology paradigm is that humans should behave with perfect rationality and high ethical standards. The more modest claim of evolutionary psychologists is that humans have evolved specific adaptations for adaptive problems that were reliably present in the ancestral environment. Outside that restricted range of problems, one should not expect optimal behavior.
Recent work on the heat-shock protein Hsp90 by Rutherford and Lindquist (1998) has been included among the pieces of evidence taken to show the essential role of developmental processes in evolution; Hsp90 acts as a buffer against phenotypic variation, allowing genotypic variation to build. When the buffering capacity of Hsp90 is altered (e.g., in nature, by mutation or environmental stress), the genetic variation is "revealed," manifesting itself as phenotypic variation. This phenomenon raises questions about the genetic variation before and after (...) what I will call a "revelation event": Is it neutral, nearly neutral, or non-neutral (i.e., strongly deleterious or strongly advantageous)? Moreover, what kinds of evolutionary processes do we take to be at work? Rutherford and Lindquist (1998) focus on the implications of non-neutral variation and selection. Later work by Queitsch, Sangster, and Lindquist (2002) and Sangster, Lindquist, and Queitsch (2004) raises the possibility that Hsp90 buffering may play the role that was played by drift in Sewall Wright's shifting balance model, permitting transition from one adaptive peak to another. However, Ohta (2002) suggests that much of this variation may be nearly neutral, which in turn, would imply a strong role for drift as well as selection. The primary goal of this paper is to illuminate the alternative scenarios and the processes operating in each. At the end, I raise the possibility of a synthesis between evo-devo and nearly neutral evolution. (shrink)
To understand adaptation (and exaptation), a more comprehensive view of development is required: one beyond a constraining force. Developmental plasticity may be an adaptation by natural selection simultaneously favored (or sometimes in conflict) at multiple levels of biological organization (e.g., cells, individuals, groups, etc.). To understand the interrelationships between developmental plasticity and adaptive evolution I borrow heavily from West-Eberhard (2003) and Frank (1995; 1997). Developmental plasticity facilitates evolution, results in particular patterns of evolutionary change, and may produce exaptations by design (...) rather than by chance. (shrink)
The evolutionary theory of sex implies a theoretically principled account of the causal mechanisms underlying personality systems in which males pursue a relatively high-risk strategy compared to females and are thus higher on traits linked to sensation seeking and social dominance. Females are expected to be lower on these traits but higher on traits related to nurturance and attraction to long-term relationships. The data confirm this pattern of sex differences. It is thus likely that these traits have (...) been a focus of natural selection rather than the traits of gregarious/aloof and arrogant/unassuming hypothesized by Depue & Collins. (shrink)
The proposal that there are specific adaptations for the expression and detection of pain appears premature on both conceptual and empirical grounds. We discuss criteria for the validation of a pain facial expression. We also describe recent findings from our lab on coping styles and pain expression, which illustrate the importance of considering individual differences when proposing evolutionary explanations.
Function theorists routinely speculate that a viable function theory will be equally applicable to biological traits and artifacts. However, artifact function has received only the most cursory scrutiny in its own right. Closer scrutiny reveals that only a pluralist theory comprising two distinct notions of function--proper function and system function--will serve as an adequate general theory. The first section describes these two notions of function. The second section shows why both notions are necessary, by showing that attempts to do away (...) with one of them fail. This demonstration draws on examples from the artifactual realm to motivate major points of the argument. The third section is an outline of artifact function. It confirms the conclusions of the second section, and also begins the task of describing some of the special features of artifact function needing accommodation within the general theory. (shrink)
Stephen Jay Gould argued that replaying the “tape of life” would result in a radically different evolutionary outcome. Some biologists and philosophers, however, have pointed to convergent evolution as evidence for robust replicability in macroevolution. These authors interpret homoplasy, or the independent origination of similar biological forms, as evidence for the power of natural selection to guide form toward certain morphological attractors, notwithstanding the diversionary tendencies of drift and the constraints of phylogenetic inertia. In this paper, I consider the implications (...) of homoplasy for the debate over the nature of macroevolution. I argue that once the concepts of contingency and convergence are fleshed out, it becomes clear that many instances of homoplasy fail to negate Gould’s overarching thesis, and may in fact support a Gouldian view of life. My argument rests on the distinction between parallelism and convergence, which I defend against a recent challenge from developmental biology. I conclude that despite the difficulties in defining and identifying parallelism, the concept remains useful and relevant to the contingency controversy insofar as it underscores the common developmental origins of iterated evolution. (shrink)
. Evolutionary psychology and behavioural genomics are both approaches to explain human behaviour from a genetic point of view. Nonetheless, thus far the development of these disciplines is anything but interdependent. This paper examines the question whether evolutionary psychology can contribute to behavioural genomics. Firstly, a possible inconsistency between the two approaches is reviewed, viz. that evolutionary psychology focuses on the universal human nature and disregards the genetic variation studied by behavioural genomics. Secondly, we will discuss the structure of biological (...) explanations. Some philosophers rightly acknowledge that explanations do not involve laws which are exceptionless and universal. Instead, generalisations that are invariant suffice for successful explanation as long as two other stipulations are recognised: the domain within which the generalisation has no exceptions as well as the distribution of the mechanism described by the generalisation should both be specified. It is argued that evolutionary psychology can contribute to behavioural genomic explanations by accounting for these two specifications. (shrink)
Since Krebs and Davies’s (1978) landmark publication, it is acknowledged that behavioural ecology owes much to the ethological tradition in the study of animal behaviour. Although this assumption seems to be right—many of the first behavioural ecologists were trained in departments where ethology developed and matured—it still to be properly assessed. In this paper, I undertake to identify the approaches used by ethologists that contributed to behavioural ecology’s constitution as a field of inquiry. It is my contention that the current (...) practices in behavioural biology owe ethology something much subtler than the simple transposition of Tinbergen’s Four Problems for heuristic purposes. Demonstrating what ethology inherited from the long naturalist tradition shows the tensions that strained the field and that later led to the loss of both its unity and its specificity. It also allows for a precise delineating of what behavioural ecology picked up from the ethological practice, and it helps to cast some light on the introduction of economical thinking in behavioural sciences. (shrink)
I want to explore four different exercises of interpretation: (1) the interpretation of texts (or hermeneutics), (2) the interpretation of people (otherwise known as "attribution" psychology, or cognitive or intentional psychology), (3) the interpretation of other artifacts (which I shall call artifact hermeneutics), (4) the interpretation of organism design in evolutionary biology--the controversial interpretive activity known as adaptationism.
Evo-Devo exhibits a plurality of scientific “cultures” of practice and theory. When are the cultures acting—individually or collectively—in ways that actually move research forward, empirically, theoretically, and ethically? When do they become imperialistic, in the sense of excluding and subordinating other cultures? This chapter identifies six cultures – three /styles/ (mathematical modeling, mechanism, and history) and three /paradigms/ (adaptationism, structuralism, and cladism). The key assumptions standing behind, under, or within each of these cultures are explored. Characterizing the internal structure (...) of the cultures is necessary for understanding how they collaborate or compete, and how they are fragmented or integrated, in the rich interdisciplinary /trading zone/ (Galison 1997) of Evo-Devo. Evo-Devo is an important example of how science can progress through a radical plurality of perspectives and cultures. (shrink)
Recent years have witnessed a ground swell of interest in the application of evolutionary theory to issues in psychopathology (Nesse & Williams 1995, Stevens & Price 1996, McGuire & Troisi 1998). Much of this work has been aimed at finding adaptationist explanations for a variety of mental disorders ranging from phobias to depression to schizophrenia. There has, however, been relatively little discussion of the implications that the theories proposed by evolutionary psychologists might have for the classification of mental disorders. This (...) is the theme we propose to explore. We'll begin, in Section 2, by providing a brief overview of the account of the mind advanced by evolutionary psychologists. In Section 3 we'll explain why issues of taxonomy are important and why the dominant approach to the classification of mental disorders is radically and alarmingly unsatisfactory. We will also indicate why we think an alternative approach, based on theories in evolutionary psychology, is particularly promising. In Section 4 we'll try to illustrate some of the virtues of the evolutionary psychological approach to classification. The discussion in Section 4 will highlight a quite fundamental distinction between those disorders that arise from the malfunction of a component of the mind and those that can be traced to the fact that our minds must now function in environments that are very different from the environments in which they evolved. This mis-match between the current and ancestral environments can, we maintain, give rise to serious mental disorders despite the fact that, in one important sense, there is nothing at all wrong with the people suffering the disorder. Their minds are functioning exactly as Mother Nature intended them to. In Section 5, we'll give a brief overview of some of the ways in which the sorts of malfunctions catalogued in Section 4 might arise, and sketch two rather different strategies for incorporating this etiologically. (shrink)
Aristotle's has been the most influential philosophy in the whole history of science. Monte Johnson examines its most controversial aspect: Aristotle's emphasis on the importance of goals and purposes to scientific understanding--his teleology. In some cases this policy has proved deeply flawed, for example in his earth-centric cosmology, or his anthropology purporting to justify slavery and male domination. But in many areas Aristotle's teleology has been successful, and remains influential, for example in adaptationist evolutionary theory, embryology, and genetics. Johnson's book (...) shows also how Aristotle's theory has profound implications for environmental ethics and for the theory of value in general. (shrink)
Many philosophers invoke the "wisdom of nature" in arguing for varying degrees of caution in the development and use of genetic enhancement technologies. Because they view natural selection as akin to a master engineer that creates functionally and morally optimal design, these authors tend to regard genetic intervention with suspicion. In Part II, we examine and ultimately reject the evolutionary assumptions that underlie the master engineer analogy (MEA). By highlighting the constraints on ordinary unassisted evolution, we show how intentional genetic (...) modification can overcome many of the natural impediments to the human good. Our contention is that genetic engineering offers a solution that is more eff icient, reliable, versatile, and morally palatable than the lumbering juggernaut of Darwinian evolution. In Part III, we evaluate a recent attempt to ground precautionary enhancement heuristics in adaptive etiology. Our problem with this approach is two-fold: first, it is based on the same "strong adaptationist" interpretation of evolution that motivates the flawed MEA, and second, the etiological concept of function on which it relies provides indirect and potentially misleading information about the likely consequences of genetic intervention. We offer instead enhancement criteria based on causal relationships in ontogeny. We conclude that rather than grounding a presumption against deliberate genetic modification, the causal structure of the living world gives us good moral reason to pursue it. (shrink)
In this paper we examine the following problems: How many concepts of function are there in biology, social science, and technology? Are they logically related and if so, how? Which of these function concepts effect a functional explanation as opposed to a mere functional account? What are the consequences of a pluralist view of functions for functionalism? We submit that there are five concepts of function in biology, which are logically related in a particular way, and six function concepts in (...) social science and technology. Only two of them may help effect a genuine functional explanation. Finally, our synthetic approach allows us to distinguish four different varieties of functionalism in biology, psychology, social science, and technology: formalist, black boxist, adaptationist, and teleological. And only one of them is explanatory in the strong sense defended here. (shrink)
Dennett's intended rapprochement between physical realism and intentional relativism fails because it is premised upon conflicting arguments governing the status of design. Indeed, Dennett's remarks on design serve to highlight tensions buried deep within his theory. For inasmuch as Dennett succeeds in objectifying attributions of design, attributions of intentionality readily follow suit, leading to a form of intentional realism. But inasmuch as Dennett is successful in relativizing attributions of design, scientific realism at large is subject to renewed anti-realistic criticism. Dennettian-inspired (...) considerations of adaptationism substantiate the former move towards intentional realism, while considerations of the relativity of artifactual design encourage the latter move towards physical relativism. The ambivalence intrinsic to Dennett's ``mild realism'' can be viewed as a function of these two conflicting positions on design, for Dennett can no more avoid objectifying intentionality when he is realistic about design than he can avoid relativizing physical causality when relativistic about design. (shrink)
I discuss two types of evidential problems with the most widely touted experiments in evolutionary psychology, those performed by Leda Cosmides and interpreted by Cosmides and John Tooby. First, and despite Cosmides and Tooby's claims to the contrary, these experiments don't fulfil the standards of evidence of evolutionary biology. Second Cosmides and Tooby claim to have performed a crucial experiment, and to have eliminated rival approaches. Though they claim that their results are consistent with their theory but contradictory to the (...) leading non-evolutionary alternative, Pragmatic Reasoning Schemas theory, I argue that this claim is unsupported. In addition, some of Cosmides and Tooby's interpretations arise from misguided and simplistic understandings of evolutionary biology. While I endorse the incorporation of evolutionary approaches into psychology, I reject the claims of Cosmides and Tooby that a modular approach is the only one supported by evolutionary biology. Lewontin's critical examinations of the applications of adaptationist thinking provide a background of evidentiary standards against which to view the currently fashionable claims of evolutionary psychology. (shrink)
Conventional wisdom has it that evolution makes a sham of morality, even if morality is an adaptation. I disagree. I argue that our best current adaptationist theory of meaning offers objective truth conditionsfor signaling systems of all sorts. The objectivity is, however, relative to species – specifically to the adaptive history of the signaling system in question. While evolution may not provide the kind of species independent objective standards that (e.g.) Kantians desire, this should be enough for the practical work (...) of justifying our confidence in the objectivity of moral standards. If you believe morality is an adaptation, you should be a moral realist. (shrink)
The "New Synthesis" in cognitive science is committed to the computational theory of mind (CTM), massive modularity, nativism, and adaptationism. In The mind doesn't work that way , Jerry Fodor argues that CTM has problems explaining abductive or global inference, but that the New Synthesis offers no solution, since massive modularity is in fact incompatible with global cognitive processes. I argue that it is not clear how global human mentation is, so whether CTM is imperiled is an open question. (...) Massive modularity also lacks some of the invidious commitments Fodor ascribes to it. Furthermore, Fodor's anti-adaptationist arguments are in tension with his nativism about the contents of modular systems. The New Synthesis thus has points worth preserving. (shrink)
The "New Synthesis" in cognitive science is committed to the computational theory of mind (CTM), massive modularity, nativism, and adaptationism. In The mind doesn't work that way , Jerry Fodor argues that CTM has problems explaining abductive or global inference, but that the New Synthesis offers no solution, since massive modularity is in fact incompatible with global cognitive processes. I argue that it is not clear how global human mentation is, so whether CTM is imperiled is an open question. (...) Massive modularity also lacks some of the invidious commitments Fodor ascribes to it. Furthermore, Fodor's anti-adaptationist arguments are in tension with his nativism about the contents of modular systems. The New Synthesis thus has points worth preserving. (shrink)
Millikan and Wilson argue, for different reasons, that the essential reference to the environment in adaptationist explanations of behavior makes (psychological) individualism inconsistent with evolutionary psychology. I show that their arguments are based on misinterpretations of the role of reference to the environment in such explanations. By exploring these misinterpretations, I develop an account of explanation in evolutionary psychology that is fully consistent with individualism. This does not, however, constitute a full-fledged defense of individualism, since evolutionary psychology is only one (...) explanatory paradigm among many in psychology. (shrink)
Adaptationist accounts of morality attempt to explain the evolution of morality in terms of the selective advantage that judging in moral terms secured for our ancestors (e.g. Ruse 1998; Joyce 2006; Street 2006). So-called by-product explanations of morality have been presented as an alternative to adaptationist accounts (e.g. Prinz 2009; Ayala 2010; cf. Darwin 2004/1871). In assessing the relationship between adaptationist and by-product accounts, care must be taken to distinguish several related but importantly different notions: innateness, adaptation, exaptation, spandrel, and (...) by-product. (shrink)
The ontological dependence of one domain on another is compatible with the explanatory autonomy of the less basic domain. That autonomy results from the fact that the relationship between two domains can be very complex. In this paper I distinguish two different types of complexity, two ways the relationship between domains can fail to be transparent, both of which are relevant to evolutionary biology. Sometimes high level explanations preserve a certain type of causal or counterfactual information which would be lost (...) at the lower level; I argue that this is central to the proper understanding of the adaptationist program. Sometimes high level kinds are multiply realised by lower level kinds: I argue that this is central to the understanding of macroevolution. (shrink)
The fate of optimality modeling is typically linked to that of adaptationism: the two are thought to stand or fall together (Gould and Lewontin, Proc Relig Soc Lond 205:581–598, 1979; Orzack and Sober, Am Nat 143(3):361–380, 1994). I argue here that this is mistaken. The debate over adaptationism has tended to focus on one particular use of optimality models, which I refer to here as their strong use. The strong use of an optimality model involves the claim that (...) selection is the only important influence on the evolutionary outcome in question and is thus linked to adaptationism. However, biologists seldom intend this strong use of optimality models. One common alternative that I term the weak use simply involves the claim that an optimality model accurately represents the role of selection in bringing about the outcome. This and other weaker uses of optimality models insulate the optimality approach from criticisms of adaptationism, and they account for the prominence of optimality modeling (broadly construed) in population biology. The centrality of these uses of optimality models ensures a continuing role for the optimality approach, regardless of the fate of adaptationism. (shrink)
According to David Chalmers, the hard problem of consciousness consists of explaining how and why qualitative experience arises from physical states. Moreover, Chalmers argues that materialist and reductive explanations of mentality are incapable of addressing the hard problem. In this chapter, I suggest that Chalmers’ hard problem can be usefully distinguished into a ‘how question’ and ‘why question,’ and I argue that evolutionary biology has the resources to address the question of why qualitative experience arises from brain states. From this (...) perspective, I discuss the different kinds of evolutionary explanations (e.g., adaptationist, exaptationist, spandrel) that can explain the origins of the qualitative aspects of various conscious states. This argument is intended to clarify which parts of Chalmers’ hard problem are amenable to scientific analysis. (shrink)
We consider the question: under what circumstances can the concept of adaptation be applied to groups, rather than individuals? Gardner and Grafen (2009, J. Evol. Biol.22: 659–671) develop a novel approach to this question, building on Grafen's ‘formal Darwinism’ project, which defines adaptation in terms of links between evolutionary dynamics and optimization. They conclude that only clonal groups, and to a lesser extent groups in which reproductive competition is repressed, can be considered as adaptive units. We re-examine the conditions under (...) which the selection–optimization links hold at the group level. We focus on an important distinction between two ways of understanding the links, which have different implications regarding group adaptationism. We show how the formal Darwinism approach can be reconciled with G.C. Williams’ famous analysis of group adaptation, and we consider the relationships between group adaptation, the Price equation approach to multi-level selection, and the alternative approach based on contextual analysis. (shrink)
Gould and Lewontin use San Marco, Venice, to criticise the adaptationist program in biology. Following their lead, the architectural term “spandrel” is now widely used in biology to denote a feature that is a necessary byproduct of other aspects of the organism. I review the debate over San Marco and argue that the spandrels are not necessary in the sense originally used by Gould and Lewontin. I conclude that almost all the claims that Gould makes about San Marco are wrong (...) and that it is reasonable to view the architectural spandrel as an adaptation. The spandrels example has not provided a good illustration of why adaptive explanations should be avoided. In fact, it can be used as an example of how adaptive explanations can be dismissed even when there is evidence in their favour. I also discuss the use of the concept of a spandrel in biology. (shrink)
Unified explanations seek to situate the traits of human beings in a causal framework that also explains the trait values found in nonhuman species. Disunified explanations claim that the traits of human beings are due to causal processes not at work in the rest of nature. This paper outlines a methodology for testing hypotheses of these two types. Implications are drawn concerning evolutionary psychology, adaptationism, and anti-adaptationism.
Philosophical discussion of molecular and developmental biology began in the late 1960s with the use of genetics as a test case for models of theory reduction. With this exception, the theory of natural selection remained the main focus of philosophy of biology until the late 1970s. It was controversies in evolutionary theory over punctuated equilibrium and adaptationism that first led philosophers to examine the concept of developmental constraint. Developmental biology also gained in prominence in the 1980s as part of (...) a broader interest in the new sciences of self-organization and complexity. The current literature in the philosophy of molecular and developmental biology has grown out of these earlier discussions under the influence of twenty years of rapid and exciting growth of empirical knowledge. Philosophers have examined the concepts of genetic information and genetic program, competing definitions of the gene itself and competing accounts of the role of the gene as a developmental cause. The debate over the relationship between development and evolution has been enriched by theories and results from the new field of 'evolutionary developmental biology'. Future developments seem likely to include an exchange of ideas with the philosophy of psychology, where debates over the concept of innateness have created an interest in genetics and development. (shrink)
How Children Learn the Meanings of Words (HCLMW) defends the theory that words are learned through sophisticated and early-emerging cognitive abilities that have evolved for other purposes; there is no dedicated mental mechanism that is special to word learning. The commentators raise a number of challenges to this theory: Does it correctly characterize the nature and development of early abilities? Does it attribute too much to children, or too little? Does it only apply to nouns, or can it also explain (...) the acquisition of words such as verbs and determiners? More general issues are discussed as well, including the role of the input, the relationship between words and concepts, and debates over nativism, adaptationism, and modularity. (shrink)
This paper offers a new definition of "adaptationism". An evolutionary account is adaptationist, it is suggested, if it allows for multiple independent origins for the same function -- i.e., if it violates the "Unique Origin Constraint". While this account captures much of the position Gould and Lewontin intended to stigmatize, it leaves it open that adaptationist accounts may sometimes be appropriate. However, there are many important cases, including that of human rationality, in which it is not.
The standard adaptationist explanation of the presence of a sensory mechanism in an organism--that it detects properties useful to the organism--cannot be given for color vision. This is because colors do not exist. After arguing for this latter claim, I consider, but reject, nonadaptationist explanations. I conclude by proposing an explanation of how color vision could have adaptive value even though it does not detect properties in the environment.
This chapter surveys the philosophical problems raised by the two Darwinian claims of the existence of a Tree of a life, and the explanatory power of natural selection. It explores the specificity of explanations by natural selection, emphasizing the high context-dependency of any process of selection. Some consequences are drawn about the difficulty of those explanations to fit a nomological model of explanation, and the irreducibility of their historic-narrative dimension. The paper introduces to the debates about units of selection, stating (...) the compelling force of genic selectionnism but highlighting some critiques. Then it addresses the limits of selectionist explanations : the compared status of selection, drift and phylogenetic inertia are investigated, and the debates over adaptationism are presented, with the aim of defining the varieties of adaptationisms as research programs. In order to assess the scope of natural selection, the chapter addresses weak and strong challenges to the Synthetic theory of evolution, both from paleontology (punctuated equilibria, Gould’s contingency thesis) and evolutionary theory of development. We finally sketch some consequences of evolutionary theory concerning philosophical questions about human nature, on the basis of the hypothesis of the universality of selectionist explanations: this part deals mostly with epistemology and psychology. (shrink)
John Reiss is a practicing evolutionary biologist (herpetology) who by his own account happened to be in the right place (Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology) at the right time (the 1980s) to hear echoes of the debate about sociobiology that had been raging there between E. O. Wilson and, on the other side, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin (xiv). Reiss is not concerned with sociobiology, at least in this book, but with the adaptationism that Gould and Lewontin saw (...) in the sociobiologists’ approach to cooperative behavior. At Harvard, Reiss was guided by Pere Alberch, in whose laboratory Gould’s stress on developmental constraints was being transformed into a now influential version of the Evo-devo movement (xiv, 327). On Alberch’s view, which Reiss accepts, variation in the rate, timing, placement, and intensity of gene products during the ontogenetic process, rather than mutation in structural genes, constitutes the proximate source of the phenotypic variation on which natural election works (327-29). Reiss does not think that Evo-devo, at least as he construes it, does away with natural selection. Rather, he seeks to identify the role played by selection in retaining or eliminating the variation generated in the developmental process. Selection, he argues, enables organisms, populations, species, and other lineages to maintain the presumptively adapted conditions of existence to which their very persistence already testifies. “Adaptedness,” Reiss writes, “is not a product of evolution; it is a condition for evolution” (22). He thinks that this fact, as he takes it to be, belies the adaptationist assumption that organisms are collections of independently optimal adaptations that arise by way of concerted spurts of directional selection. “It is a mistake,” he writes, “to atomize organisms and to explain each part as the solution of a problem raised by the environment” (295). (shrink)
The fundamental unit of assessment in the sociobiology debate is neither a field nor a theory, but a framework of group commitments. Recourse to the framework concept is motivated, in general, by post-Kuhnian philosophy of scientific change and, in particular, by the dispute between E. O. Wilson and R. C. Lewontin. The framework concept is explicated in terms of commitments about problems, domain, disciplinary relations, exemplars, and performance evaluations. One upshot is that debate over such charges as genetic determinism, reductionism, (...)adaptationism, and the biologization of human nature has been vexed. It has lost sight of human sociobiology's central problem, namely to help show that the modern synthesis is complete. (shrink)
We explore the evidential relationships that connect two standard claims of modern evolutionary biology. The hypothesis of common ancestry (which says that all organisms now on earth trace back to a single progenitor) and the hypothesis of natural selection (which says that natural selection has been an important influence on the traits exhibited by organisms) are logically independent; however, this leaves open whether testing one requires assumptions about the status of the other. Darwin noted that an extreme version of (...) class='Hi'>adaptationism would undercut the possibility of making inferences about common ancestry. Here we develop a converse claim—hypotheses that assert that natural selection has been an important influence on trait values are untestable unless supplemented by suitable background assumptions. The fact of common ancestry and a claim about quantitative genetics together suffice to render such hypotheses testable. Furthermore, we see no plausible alternative to these assumptions; we hypothesize that they are necessary as well as sufficient for adaptive hypotheses to be tested. This point has important implications for biological practice, since biologists standardly assume that adaptive hypotheses predict trait associations among tip species. Another consequence is that adaptive hypotheses cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed by a trait value that is universal within a single species, if that trait value deviates even slightly from the optimum. 1 Two Darwinian hypotheses 2 Logical independence 3 How adaptive hypotheses bear on the tree of life hypothesis 4 How the tree of life hypothesis bears on adaptive hypotheses 5 What do adaptive hypotheses predict? 6 Common ancestry and quantitative genetics to the rescue 7 Conclusion. (shrink)
In Color for Philosophers C. L. Hardin argues that chromatic objectivism?a view which identifies colour with some or other property of objects?must be false. The upshot of Hardin's argument is this: there is, in fact, no principled correlation between physical properties and perceived colours. Since that correlation is a minimal condition for objectivism, objectivism is false. Mohan Matthen, who accepts Hardin's conclusion for what can be called "simple objectivism," takes it that an adaptationist theory of biological function applied to colour (...) is able to surmount the problems Hardin describes. It is Matthen's view that I am primarily concerned with in this paper. I will argue that it entails an overly simple view of adaptive value?as, perhaps, do all objectivist views. (shrink)
Gould's Structure ofEvolutionary Theory argues that Darwinism hasundergone significant revision. Although Gouldsucceeds in showing that hierarchicalapproaches have expanded Darwinism, hiscritique of adaptationism is less successful. Gould claims that the ubiquity of developmentalconstraints and spandrels has forced biologiststo soften their commitment to adaptationism. Iargue that Gould overstates his conclusion; hisprincipal claims are compatible with at leastsome versions of adaptationism. Despite thisweakness, Gould's discussion of adaptationism –particularly his discussions of the exaptivepool and cross-level spandrels – shouldprovoke new work (...) in evolutionary theory and thephilosophy of biology. (shrink)
A number of authors have pointed to “convergent evolution” as evidence for the central role of natural selection in shaping predictable trajectories of macroevolution. However, there are numerous conceptual and empirical difficulties that arise in broadly appealing to the frequency of homoplasy as evidence for a non-contingently constrained adaptational design space. Most important is the need to distinguish between convergent (externally constrained) and parallel (internally constrained) evolution, and to consider how the respective frequencies of these significantly different sources of homoplasy (...) affect a strong adaptationist view of life. In this paper, I critically evaluate Simon Conway Morris’s use of the homoplasy literature to support his argument for a non-contingent, counterfactually stable account of macroevolutionary pattern. In so doing, I offer a conception of parallelism which avoids the charge that it differs from convergence merely in degree and not in kind. I argue that although organisms sharing a homoplastic trait will also share varying degrees of homology, it is the underlying developmental homology with respect to the generators directly causally responsible for the homoplastic event that defines parallel evolution and non-arbitrarily distinguishes it from convergence. The notion of “screening-off” is used to distinguish the proximal generators of a homoplastic trait from its more distal genetic causes (such as a master control gene). (shrink)
Elliott Sober is among the leading contemporary contributors to the philosophy of biology. He also has an exceptional ability to explain difficult ideas clearly. He is therefore very well equipped to provide an accessible yet state-of-the-art introduction to the philosophy of biology, and in most respects this optimistic prognosis is justified by the present volume. Focussing on evolutionary biology, Sober provides a general overview of evolutionary theory; a chapter on creationism that serves as a vehicle for the discussion of the (...) evidence for evolution; and chapters on fitness, the units of selection, adaptationism, systematics, and sociobiology. Sober displays a thorough mastery of both the biological issues and the recent philosophical controversies that have surrounded them, and the presentation is always lucid and free from unnecessary technicalities. Anyone not thoroughly conversant with contemporary discussions of evolutionary theory could learn from this book. (shrink)
Much ink has been spent on Popper's falsificationism. Why, then, am I writing another paper on this subject? This paper is neither a new kind of criticism nor a new kind of defense of falsificationism. Recent debate about the legitimacy of adaptationism among biologists centers on the question of whether Popper's falsificationism or Lakatos' methodology of scientific research programs (SRP) is adequate in understanding science. S. Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin (1978) argue that adaptationism is unfalsifiable since (...) it easily invites ad hoc adjustments when it makes false predictions. William A. Mitchell and Thomas J. Valone (1990) argue that adaptationism is a research program, and that the charge of falsifiability does not apply to a research program. Although both sides make use of the theories of scientific methodology proposed by Karl R. Popper (1934, 1957, 1963, 1971) and Imre Lakatos (1965, 1974, 1978), the differences and the similarities between these philosophers are overlooked. The purpose of the present paper is to explicate the differences and the similarities between the two philosophies of science. (shrink)
A common objection to adaptationist accounts of human emotions is that they ignore the influence of culture. If complex emotions like guilt, shame and romantic jealousy are largely culturally determined, how could they be biological adaptations? Dual inheritance models of gene/culture coevolution provide a potential answer to this question. If complex emotions are developmentally ‘scaffolded' by norms that are transmitted from parent to offspring with reasonably high fidelity, then these emotions can evolve to promote individual reproductive interests. This paper draws (...) on case studies of emotional development to illustrate how complex emotions satisfy these conditions. Many of the norms and parenting strategies influencing emotional development are absorbed during the early stages of life when a child is in primary contact with its parents and before the onset of complex cognition. These conditions make it likely that emotion-governing norms are transmitted vertically and with relatively little cognitive ‘contamination'. ‡Thanks to Mark Colyvan, Paul Griffiths, Alexander Rosenberg, and John Wilkins for helpful comments on previous drafts. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Maynard Smith’s defenses of adaptationism and of the value of optimization theory in evolutionary biology are both criticized. His defense does not adequately respond to the criticism of adaptationism by Gould and Lewontin. It is also argued here that natural selection cannot be interpreted as an optimization process if the objective function to be optimized is either (i) interpretable as a fitness, or (ii) correlated with the mean population fitness. This result holds even if fitnesses are frequency-independent; the (...) problem is further exacerbated in the frequency-dependent context modeled by evolutionary game theory. However, Eshel and Feldman’s new results on “long-term” evolution may provide some hope for the continuing relevance of the game-theoretic framework. These arguments also demonstrate the irrelevance of attempts by Intelligent Design creationists to use computational limits on optimization algorithms as evidence against evolutionary theory. It is pointed out that adaptation, natural selection, and optimization are not equivalent processes in the context of biological evolution. (shrink)
One of intuitions driving the acceptance of a neat structured tree of life is the assumption that organisms and the lineages they form have somewhat stable spatial and temporal boundaries. The phenomenon of symbiosis shows us that such ‘fixist’ assumptions does not correspond to how the natural world actually works. The implications of lateral gene transfer (LGT) have been discussed elsewhere; I wish to stress a related point. I will focus on lateral function transfer (LFT) and will argue, using examples (...) of what many would call ‘superorganisms’, that the emergence of symbiotic individuals revives the importance of functional and adaptationist thinking in how we conceptualize the lineages of biological individuals. The consequence of the argument is that, if we really want to hold onto tree of life thinking, we had better accept that new saplings appear and disappear all the time. (shrink)
Schizophrenia is a worldwide, prevalent disorder with a multifactorial but highly genetic aetiology. A constant prevalence rate in the face of reduced fecundity has caused some to argue that an evolutionary advantage exists in unaffected relatives. Here, I critique this adaptationist approach, and review – and find wanting – Crow's “speciation” hypothesis. In keeping with available biological and psychological evidence, I propose an alternative theory of the origins of this disorder. Schizophrenia is a disorder of the social brain, and it (...) exists as a costly trade-off in the evolution of complex social cognition. Paleoanthropological and comparative primate research suggests that hominids evolved complex cortical interconnectivity (in particular, frontotemporal and frontoparietal circuits) to regulate social cognition and the intellectual demands of group living. I suggest that the ontogenetic mechanism underlying this cerebral adaptation was sequential hypermorphosis and that it rendered the hominid brain vulnerable to genetic and environmental insults. I argue that changes in genes regulating the timing of neurodevelopment occurred prior to the migration of Homo sapiens out of Africa 100,000–150,000 years ago, giving rise to the schizotypal spectrum. While some individuals within this spectrum may have exhibited unusual creativity and iconoclasm, this phenotype was not necessarily adaptive in reproductive terms. However, because the disorder shared a common genetic basis with the evolving circuitry of the social brain, it persisted. Thus schizophrenia emerged as a costly trade-off in the evolution of complex social cognition. Key Words: cortical connectivity; evolution; heterochrony; metarepresentation; primates; psychiatry; schizophrenia; social brain; social cognition. (shrink)
We argue that ritual is not a by-product as Boyer & Lienard (B&L) claim, but rather an evolved adaptation for social communication that facilitates non-agonistic social interactions among non-kin. We review the neurophysiological effects of ritual and propose neural structures and networks beyond the cortical-striato-pallidal-thalamic circuit (CSPT) likely to be implicated in ritual. The adaptationist approach to ritual offers a more parsimonious model for understanding these effects as well as the findings B&L present. (Published Online February 8 2007).
A deflationary perspective on theories of cultural evolution, in particular dual-inheritance theory, has recently been proposed by Lewens. On this ‘pop-culture’ analysis, dual-inheritance theorists apply population thinking to cultural phenomena, without claiming that cultural items evolve by natural selection. This paper argues against this pop-culture analysis of dual-inheritance theory. First, it focuses on recent dual-inheritance models of specific patterns of cultural change. These models exemplify population thinking without a commitment to natural selection of cultural items. There are grounds, however, for (...) doubting the added explanatory value of the models in their disciplinary context—and thus grounds for engaging in other potentially explanatory projects based on dual-inheritance theory. One such project is suggested by advocates of the theory. Some of the motivational narratives that they offer can be interpreted as setting up an adaptationist project with regard to cumulative change in cultural items. We develop this interpretation here. On it, dual-inheritance theory features two interrelated selection processes, one on the level of genetically inherited learning mechanisms, another on the level of the cultural items transmitted through these mechanisms. This interpretation identifies a need for further modelling efforts, but also offers scope for enhancing the explanatory power of dual-inheritance theory. (shrink)
A number of philosophers and ‘evolutionary psychologists’ have argued that attacks on adaptationism in contemporary biology are misguided. These thinkers identify anti-adaptationism with advocacy of non-adaptive modes of explanation. They overlook the influence of anti-adaptationism in the development of more rigorous forms of adaptive explanation. Many biologists who reject adaptationism do not reject Darwinism. Instead, they have pioneered the contemporary historical turn in the study of adaptation. One real issue which remains unresolved amongst these methodological advances (...) is the nature of ‘phylogenetic inertia’. To what extent is an adaptive explanation needed for the persistence of a trait as well as its origin? (shrink)
To operationalize the methodological assessment of evolutionary psychology, three requirements are proposed that, if satisfied, would show that a hypothesis is not a just-so story: (1) theoretical entrenchment (i.e., that the hypothesis under consideration is a consequence of a more fundamental theory that is empirically well-confirmed across a very wide range of phenomena), (2) predictive success (i.e., that the hypothesis generates concrete predictions that make it testable and eventually to a certain extent corroborated), and (3) failure of rival explanations (i.e., (...) that crucial and successful predictions attributed to the hypothesis in question cannot be derived from alternative hypotheses). The author argues that the hypothesis about evolutionary sex differences in human jealousy satisfies all three requirements. Key Words: evolutionary psychology adaptationism philosophy of science testability. (shrink)
There is a trend within philosophy of biology to concentrate on questions that are strongly related to particular biological research programs rather than on the general scope of the field and its relation to other sciences. Projects of the latter kind, of course, are followed as well but will not be the topic of this review. Shifting the focus to particular research programs reflects philosophers’ increased interest in knowledge of, and contribution to, actual biological research, which is organized in such (...) programs. It is accompanied by the increasing enthusiasm of biologists to involve philosophers in the conceptual work of theoretical biology. I concentrate on the philosophies of four biological research programs, three of which are devoted to evolutionary biology, which is still the main field of interest among philosophers of biology: adaptationism, EvoDevo, and the developmental systems approach. In addition, a short sketch of the newly emerging philosophy of systems biology is given. Several lines of philosophical inquiry can be found in all of the fields considered here: philosophy contributes to the conceptual development of biological research programs, it analyzes structures and delineations of particular research programs, and sometimes it is involved in a comparative assessment of biological programs as well. Philosophical projects that start from the level of a particular research program may give rise to a bottom-up perspective on biology and allow for an integrative view of biological research. This may open up the opportunity to tackle “larger” questions again in an altered and fruitful manner. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that mating games, a concept that denotes cultural practices characterized by a competitive element and an ornamental character, are essential drivers behind the emergence and maintenance of human cultural practices. In order to substantiate this claim, we sketch out the essential role of the game’s players and audience, as well as the ways in which games can mature and turn into relatively stable cultural practices. After outlining the life phase of mating games – their emergence, (...) rise, maturation, and possible eventual decline – we go on to argue that participation in these games (in each phase) does make sense from an adaptationist point of view. The strong version of our theory which proposes that all cultural practices are, or once were, mating games, allows us to derive a set of testable predictions for the fields of archaeology, economics, and psychology. (shrink)
The adaptationist and exaptationist programs overlap in their need for a pluralistic approach to understanding evolutionary change, and Andrews et al. effectively illustrate the methodological confounds of these approaches. However, the current critique of adaptationism, especially in the arena of human behavior, rests on the tendency to rapidly reify adaptationist hypotheses prior to broad evidentiary consensus across relevant disciplines.
Variation or rearrangement of regulatory genes is responsible for cellular malignant change. These types of chromosomal variations also produce heterochrony or paedomorphic evolution at the organismal level. Analogously, neoplasia represents a cellular macroevolutionary event, and a tumour can be said to be an evolved population of cells. To understand this cellular evolution to malignancy, it may be necessary to go beyond a clonal selection (adaptationist) explanation of neoplastic alteration. In the pericellular environment natural selection consists of the organizational restraints of (...) surrounding cells as well as the host's immunological surveillance and non-specific monocyte-macrophage systems. Indirect evidence suggests that success for the neoplasm depends not upon clonal selection, but solely upon a genetic methodology—the function of which is to elude selection.The author has coined the term cellular heterochrony to illustrate analogic similarities in the molecular modes of speciation between anaplastic cancer cells and the heterochronic evolution of organisms. By reverting to a juvenile (embryonic) repertoire of cellular behaviour a tumour secures its own tenure or niche by usurping the host's armamentarium of selection forces, employing many of the same or similar methods by which implanting and invading tissues of the mammalian embryo forestall maternal detection and rejection. A number of ways by which the tumour blocks, subverts or evades selection are discussed. (shrink)
Abstract Daniel Dennett advocates the use of the intentional stance in adaptationist biology and in cognitive ethology. He sees intentional system theory as closely related to decision theory and game theory. In biological decision and game theory models, nature ?chooses? the strategy by which the animal chooses a course of action. The design of the animal imposes constraints on the model. For Dennett, by contrast, the description of nature's rationale imposes constraints on the design of the animal. Dennett's oversimplified conception (...) of nature's rationale undermines the usefulness of the intentional stance as a tool in cognitive ethology. Intentional system theory can be made more useful in investigating animal cognition by modifying its application to questions of biological function. (shrink)