Re: Adaptationism again

Len Piotrowski (
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 21:31:21 GMT

In article <50hbuo$> (Bryant) writes:


>There's been an ongoing discussion in these parts about adaptationism in
>evolutionary biology. I've been arguing for a while that contra Gould &
>Lewontin's famous claims (in their 1979 critique of adaptationism, cited
>earlier), adaptationist hypotheses are more readily testable and more
>reasonably applied to complex structures than constraint, drift, & side-effect
>hypotheses about structures' evolutionary origins.

>I was surprised to see that Gould's partner in crime seems to agree. In
>his 1978 paper, "Adaptation" (in Scientific American), Lewontin says
>that hypotheses positing traits are adaptations only if they are not
>caused by "allometry, pleiotropy, random gene fixations, linkage and
>indirect selection would be *utterly impervious to test*" (page 230).
>[emphasis mine, naturally.]

My reading of the above:

Hypothesis: a trait is adaptive if it is not caused by allometry, pleiotropy,
random gene fixations, linkage and indirect selection.

Lewontin's apparent conclusion: this is not a testable hypothesis.

How does this then imply that "adaptationist hypotheses are more readily