Re: Adaptationism's Lessons (was Re: Evolution, "adaptation")

John Wilkins (
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 13:36:13 +1000

In article <m-pg0123.842836231@granny>, (Paul
Gallagher) wrote:

| (Bryant) writes:
| >Why is this important? We were discussing genes, not memes. For the
| >record, I'm not too impressed with Dawkins' take on signal evolution
| >either. But most of the adaptationist notions we were discussing weren't
| >Dawksinian ideas.

Sorry, I interpolated memes here (since it's an obsession and this is
sci.anthro and cultural change may be relevant :-).

However, remember that Williams calls genes a "cybernetic abstraction", so
it is relevant.
| I owe an explanation. I was returning to a discussion I had with Wilkins
| back in July on - (the "High Table" thread, in case anyone
| wants to check the archives).
| >This is an interesting point. Adaptations being the traits which
| >contribute to differential reproductive success because of the specific
| >socio-environmental or homeostatic challenges they help overcome is
| >tautological? How would you propose biologists define adaptation, then?
| That's not the definition Wilkins gave. He defined adaptation solely
| in terms of the selection coefficient at an individual allele. (I posted
| an article about various definitions of natural selection on
| It may still be available on

I don't think I did give that definition, although it may very well be the
logical outcome of what I think. Williams' 1966 book says that for general
theory purposes we can treat the selection coefficient as the difference
contributed to the mean arithmetic fitness of a single unlinked allele,
but I'm paraphrasing here and that might be a misconstrual.

John Wilkins, Head of Communication Services, Walter and Eliza
Hall Institute of Medical Research
It is the glory of science that it finds the patterns
in spite of the noise - Daniel Dennett