Re: Evolution, "adaptation", and what's currently adaptive

Stephen Barnard (
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 19:36:16 -0800

This question is directed to Len Piotrowski.

Len, I'm a little confused about what your position is. You seem to be
very hostile toward Bryant's "adaptationist" speculations, which I can
appreciate. A lot of people are hostile toward such things. I'm
wondering, though, two things:

1) Do you reject out-of-hand *all* adaptationist arguments? If you do,
then you are on very soft ground, because there are some very good ones.
It's the nature of this kind of argument that it cannot be proven
conclusively, but if you accept an overwhelming preponderance of
evidence then you will have to accept some adaptationist arguments.

2) What do you offer in place of the adaptationist arguments? Bryant is
at least trying to make sense of some facts as they are observed. I
have no doubt that he is wrong in some of the particulars. If you want
to rebutt him effectively you will have to provide some alternative
other than "it's just a contingent accident."

My own personal take on this is that adaptation is an extremely
effective concept in biology. It is also extremely vulnerable to abuse
and to the construction of "just-so" stories. People with principles
who make adaptationist arguments *must* be aware of that. I think
Bryant is.

Steve Barnard