Re: Joel and Bryant /talk/ about Antlers and Culture

Len Piotrowski (
Wed, 21 Aug 1996 18:17:33 GMT

In article <4v95c2$> (Bryant) writes:

Quoted out of order to juxtapose the "straw-man" with earlier statements:

>I was thinking specifically of Gould & Lewontin's 1979 paper, in which
>they assert that adaptationists see "function in all." That's simply not
>the position of any adaptationist I've ever read or heard of or heard
>speak, and counts, I think, as a straw-man created by Gould & Lewontin.


>That's my take, too. Note that most evolutionists attribute all
>evolution *ULTIMATELY* to genetic mutation, a chancy affair. But the
>genetic diversity thusly created is acted upon by nature--a given
>mutation (for whatever un-"intended" reason) may increase or decrease (or
>not affect) its owners' reproductive fitness. The stuff that's retained
>for their fitness advantages are said to be "selectively favored."

>If a trait is retained (and modified through time) in a population
>because of its positive fitness effects (in other words, if a trait's a
>"fitness enhancer"), then it constitutes an "adaptation," and is referred
>to in a 'functional' context by evolutionists.


>I promise: sociobiologists agree. "Function" and "purpose" only mean
>that a given trait were retained by natural selection because of a given
>set of seletion pressures. Example: orgasm's "function" is to enhance
>reproductive success. :)


[orginal position of opening quotes]


>:) I meant evolutionary "fitness" (=maximized number of offspring
>surviving to reproductive maturity). Indeed, some folks seek the status
>afforded in some places by having a lot of kids. It's really late, so if
>I try to explain how this desire is probably an outgrowth of the desire
>for status, which is fitness enhancing, coupled with a paticular
>culture's respect for fertility, but not an evolved desire per se, I'll
>undoubtedly flub it. G'night.

Question: If Gould and Lewontin are creating only imaginary adaptionists, how
do you reconcile such explanations for "orgasm" and " having a lot of kids"
with non-functional arguments?