Re: Adaptationism again

Len Piotrowski (
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 18:52:00 GMT

In article <51c2vd$> (Bryant) writes:


>In article <51br2c$>, Paul Gallagher <> wrote:

>>But since you ask: Gould and Lewontin don't accuse people of thinking that
>>every single trait is currently optimal.

>Are we reading the same Gould?! Two quotes:

>"...evolutionary biologists, in their tendency to focus exclusively on
>immediate adaptation to local conditions..."

>--Gould & Lewontin, "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian
>Paradigm", 1979 (Proceedings B, Royal Society of London).

Your conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. The work of evolutionary
biologists according to Gould & Lewontin (as of 1979 you would assume) tends
to focus only upon the current optimality of advocated traits. This doesn't
imply any accusation that evolutionary biologists viewed every single trait of
an organism as an immediate adaptation to local conditions.

>"How exclusive is natural selection as an agent of evolutionary change?
>Must all features of organisms be viewed as adaptations?"

>--Gould, page 49, _The Panda's Thumb_

>Gould plainly said that adaptationists focus "exclusively" on current
>utility. That's false, as anybody familiar with the biological
>literature can attest.

Neither does this conclusion follow from the premise. What Gould says is that
evolutionary change is viewed [by sociobiologist no doubt] as exclusively the
result of natural selection. Why must each trait advocated by sociobiologists
be the result of functional adaptations?

> Hence my argument that Gould uses straw-man
>arguments and overstates his case against the mainstream of evolutionary

Your advocated traits have all been explained as retentions by functional
adaptation, whether or not they are of current utility or past utility. Such
historicity is not beyond the logical implications of either of the two
quotes above, and doesn't exempt them from Gould & Lewontin's original



"If you can't remember what mnemonic means, you've got a problem."
- perlstyle