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

Gerold Firl (
3 Sep 1996 23:26:09 GMT

In article <>, (Len Piotrowski) writes:

|> I suppose you can believe it's possible that every human behavior arose
|> through selection, but waiting a million or so years to derive it is
|> excessive. The nature of ongoing human action belies such a functional
|> fixation.

Lenny, I'd like to hear your ideas on the subject. You keep complaining
about over-reliance on functional adaptation, but what are you
suggesting as an alternative?

This example should be crystal clear:

|> In article <504muq$> (Bryant) writes:

|> >Eyes are adaptations because they have design features unlikely to have
|> >accumulated by chance.

|> And too, unlikely to have accumulated as a sequential series of functional
|> adaptations with your final goal (to see) as the causal reason!

Try to do a little research before you make such absolutist
pronouncements; you're just flat-out wrong. Throughout the biosphere
there exists the complete gamut of light-sensing and imaging systems,
which maps very well to the developmental evolutionary pathway. We have
plants which orient their leaves to the sun, plankton which can detect
up and down from light and dark, and large numbers of independantly
evolved imaging systems ranging from mollusc crude to mammalian
sophistication. Each incremental step of visual acuity provided
adaptive benefits, which is why vision systems have continued to

You present "the goal" of being able to see in teleological terms,
which is erroneous of course, but anyone who has thought about the
process of evolution can see how natural selection has refined animal
vision to produce successively more acute vision. The "causal reason"
which drove the process was survival, of course, not the ability to

|> >They serve fitness-enhancing functions.

|> You don't know why "they" first appeared, or why "they" happened to be
|> retained, or if and when "they" served as " fitness-enhancing functions"
|> or for whom or what. This kind of story is about useless to illustrate any
|> principle you may be striving for in describing meaningful human behavior as
|> the result of functional adaptation.

You're amazing, lenny. You don't believe that animal vision evolved
because of the fitness benefits of being able to see, right? Too
teleological, too adaptationist for your liking. Again I ask, because
I'm curious about your agenda here, if something as obviously
functional as vision didn't evolve as an adaptation, where did it come

I understand that you're very concerned about preserving a place for
"meaning" in human activity; so tell us lenny, what does it mean to see

|> >The only alternative to random accumulation in evolution is selection.

|> "Random accumulation" of what? This is getting more and more remarkable.

Remarkable indeed. Does it boggle the mind, by any chance? Read a
textbook on animal physiology, ethology, or evolutionary biology. There
have been some remarkable discoveries in the last couple of centuries.

Do you know how the elephant got his long trunk?

|> Just so ...

Something like that.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf