The Latest on the Best: Essays on Evolution and Optimality : Conference on Evolution and Information : Papers

MIT Press (1987)
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Controversies about optimality models and adaptationist methodologies have animated the discussions of evolutionary theory in recent years. The sociobiologists, following the lead of E. O. Wilson, have argued that if Darwinian natural selection can be reliably expected to produce the best possible type of organism - one that optimizes the value of its genetic contribution to future generations - then evolution becomes a powerfully predictive theory as well as an explanatory one. The enthusiastic claims of the sociobiologists for the predictability and applicability that the optimalist approach engenders have been met with severe criticism by Richard C. Lewontin, Stephen Jay Gould, and other biologists and philosophers of biology. These original essays take up both sides of the controversy over the role of optimality models in evolutionary biology, providing a refreshingly insightful and balanced discussion of optimality issues by an interdisciplinary group of leading philosophers of biology, biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and an economist. They focus on the current state of adaptationist and optimalist methodology in evolutionary theory, and on the possibility of extending such methodology to the human sciences, especially those of psychology and anthropology. Introduction / John Dupre -- Part 1. Methodological questions. Simple models of complex phenomena: the case of cultural evolution / Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd -- Natural selection and the null hypothesis / John Beatty -- Why not the best? / Philip Kitcher -- Part 2. Evolution and optimality. What is adaptationism? / Elliot Sober -- How to model evolution / John Maynard Smith -- Comments on Maynard Smith’s "How to Model Evolution" / Elliot Sober -- Reply to Sober / John Maynard Smith -- The shape of optimality / Richard C. Lewontin -- Part 3. Applications. Evolutionary ecology and the optimality assumption / John M. Emlen -- Optimality theory and behavior / John E.R. Staddon -- Part 4. Applications to human behavior. Optimization theory in anthropology: applications and critiques / Eric Alden Smith -- Evolution of a mesh between principles of the mind and regularities of the world / Roger N. Shepard -- From evolution to behavior: evolutionary psychology as the missing link / Leda Cosmides and John Tooby -- On the emotions as guarantors of threats and promises / Jack Hirschleifer -- Human kinds / John Dupre.



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John Dupre
University of Exeter

Citations of this work

Is human cognition adaptive?John R. Anderson - 1991 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 14 (3):471-485.
Evolutionary psychology and the massive modularity hypothesis.Richard Samuels - 1998 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4):575-602.

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