How to study adaptation (and why to do it that way)

Quarterly Review of Biology 90 (2):167-191 (2015)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Some adaptationist explanations are regarded as maximally solid and others fanciful just-so stories. Just-so stories are explanations based on very little evidence. Lack of evidence leads to circular-sounding reasoning: “this trait was shaped by selection in unseen ancestral populations and this selection must have occurred because the trait is present.” Well-supported adaptationist explanations include evidence that is not only abundant but selected from comparative, populational, and optimality perspectives, the three adaptationist subdisciplines. Each subdiscipline obtains its broad relevance in evolutionary biology via assumptions that can only be tested with the methods of the other subdisciplines. However, even in the best-supported explanations, assumptions regarding variation, heritability, and fitness in unseen ancestral populations are always present. These assumptions are accepted given how well they would explain the data if they were true. This means that some degree of “circularity” is present in all evolutionary explanations. Evolutionary explanation corresponds not to a deductive structure, as biologists usually assert, but instead to ones such as abduction or induction. With these structures in mind, we show the way to a healthier view of “circularity” in evolutionary biology, and why integration across the comparative, populational, and optimality approaches is necessary.

Links

PhilArchive

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

How to pursue the adaptationist program in psychology.Russil Durrant & Brian D. Haig - 2001 - Philosophical Psychology 14 (4):357 – 380.
``Two'' many optimalities.Oscar Vilarroya - 2002 - Biology and Philosophy 17 (2):251-270.
San Marco and evolutionary biology.Alasdair I. Houston - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (2):215-230.
Whither adaptation?Andrew P. Hendry & Andrew Gonzalez - 2008 - Biology and Philosophy 23 (5):673-699.
Biological adaptation.Ronald Munson - 1971 - Philosophy of Science 38 (2):200-215.
Darwin was a teleologist.James G. Lennox - 1993 - Biology and Philosophy 8 (4):409-421.
L'adaptation evolutive.J. T. Wiebes - 1982 - Acta Biotheoretica 31 (4):239-243.
The Logical Skeleton of Darwin's Historical Methodology.Mary B. Williams - 1986 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1986:514 - 521.
Evolutionary psychology, adaptation and design.Stephen M. Downes - 2015 - In Thomas Heams, Philippe Huneman, Guillaume Lecointre & Marc Silberstein (eds.), Handbook of Evolutionary Thinking in the Sciences. Springer. pp. 659-673.

Analytics

Added to PP
2015-05-14

Downloads
1,545 (#7,064)

6 months
191 (#15,607)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Alfonso Arroyo-Santos
National Autonomous University of Mexico

References found in this work

Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge.
Conjectures and Refutations.K. Popper - 1963 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 21 (3):431-434.

View all 53 references / Add more references