Re: Waking up covered in dew

Stephen Barnard (
Thu, 15 Aug 1996 18:37:48 -0800

Paul Crowley wrote:
> In article <4uv6bc$>
> "Thomas R. Holtz, Jr." writes:
> > and yet all
> > the discussions I've seen here have tried to find adaptationist reasons
> > for all the important human characteristics.
> I've never understood how "adaptionist" can be an acceptable term
> of abuse. What else is there? - Lamarkism? Teleology? God?

The term "adaptationist" has come under quite a bit of fire, much of it
unjustified IMHO. The famous Spandrels of San Marcos paper by Gould and
Lewontin is probably the most well-known attack. The general criticism,
in a nutshell, seems to be along the lines that "adaptationists" are
prone to make up "just so" stories to explain every little biological
fact, but many biological facts are just due to historical accident or
developmental or physical constraints.

I have to admit that I don't quite understand the point of this
argument. Sure, some adaptationists are silly "Panglossian"
adaptationists, but the influence of contingincy and developmental and
physical constraints is certainly compatible with responsible
adaptationist thinking within the neo-Darwinian framework.

I get the distinct impression that a political agenda is behind some of
this criticism of adaptationism, which isn't to say that a degree of
criticism isn't justified.

Steve Barnard