Adaptationism and engineering

Biology and Philosophy 17 (1):1-31 (2002)
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.
Keywords adaptationism  adaptive thinking  artefact model  optimality  reverse engineering
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DOI 10.1023/A:1012915007444
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Brett Calcott (2014). Engineering and Evolvability. Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):293-313.
Tim Lewens (2009). Seven Types of Adaptationism. Biology and Philosophy 24 (2):161-182.
Chris Haufe (2008). Perverse Engineering. Philosophy of Science 75 (4):437-446.
T. Lewens (2002). Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process Darwinnovation! Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (1):195-203.
Daniel J. Nicholson (2014). The Machine Conception of the Organism in Development and Evolution: A Critical Analysis. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48:162-174.

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