Re: Adaptationism again

Paul Gallagher (
10 Sep 1996 01:09:51 -0400

In <511enl$> (Bryant) writes:

>Indeed, it has. But pan-adaptationism has been dead for a longer time
>than group selectionism. The Spandrels paper set up a straw man, and
>many (see recent essays in _Quarterly Review of Biology_, for instance
>["The Spaniels of St. Marx," for one]) see the paper therefore as a
>launching pad for Gould's later attacks in the popular press.

>There simply are no academic Panglossians out there. Gould created the
>monster so that he could strike it down (viva Gould).

Well, no. You say this, Dawkins says this, but you're both wrong. A
counter-example is provided by your own posts, where you imagine you
are explaining the evolution of jealousy.

Anyway, why do people dislike Gould so much? Tell the truth here!

>Most of his points about adaptation were more articulately presented by
>an adaptationist named Williams in his 1966 critique of group selection
>thinking, _Adaptation and Natural Selection_.

It's true (and a little ironic) that G.C. Williams was very careful to
address pleiotropy, and he was a strong critic of the use of teleology in
evolutionary thinking. But Dawkins and optimization theorists haven't
listened. And Gould and Lewontin make many additional points.

You can look at the posts I made a while back in and You could look at the web site I recommended. I
particularly recommend Raup's "Approaches to Morphological Analysis" in
Schopf's Models in Paleobiology. In particular, it will show you how
the critique of pan-adaptationism grew out of a critique of functional
morphology in paleontology. It also shows the relevance of Wright's
adaptive peaks model - the organism moves to the nearest, not the
highest, peak. What some people can't seem to understand is that even if
we assume that all morphology is adaptive and selection is the sole
force is determining the phenotype, pan-adaptationism and others ideas
about the optimization of function can still can be wrong. Plus the
underlying assumptions may be wrong.

Again, just take a look, with an open mind, at the Berkeley web site,
or at some writings by Seilacher or Raup, if you can't stomach Gould
and Lewontin. Or even D'Arcy-Thompson - a pan-adaptationist of an extreme
kind, but with a keen appreciation for structural constraints.

On the web, take a look at: