Re: Darwin Fish

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Sat, 20 May 1995 16:51:00 +1000

Carter Pate wrote:
> In catching up on mail, I've just raced through the comments
> on the "Darwin Fish." Fascinating! Yes, I've seen it, but I
> don't remember where. What strikes me most, is that no one has yet
> mentioned the article in the most recent Discover magazine on the
> emergence of tetrapods onto the land. (I also raced through it, so
> don't expect deep scientific critique.) If the position suggested,
> that preadaptations often occur, then where does that leave classic
> Darwinian "natural selection"?

One of the reasons I dislike the term "preadaptation" is that it
conveys entirely the wrong idea to those without a background
in evolutionary biology ("exaptation" is the preferred term).
There's no conflict between "natural selection" and the existence
of "exaptations" -- the latter are purely fortuitous, after all!
Exaptations are only an argument against *adaptionism*. Once again,
let me recommend:

R. Lewontin & S.J. Gould
"The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm:
A Critique of the Adaptionist Programme". Proc. R. Soc.
London, 1978, 205: 581-598.

Also reprinted in _Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology_,
(Ed.) Elitott Sober, MIT Press 1994.

> I'm not a relativity absolutist, but the whole discussion persuades me that it
> is in the world of symbolic behavior that relativity becomes ALMOST absolute.
> What a delightful range of interpretations (probably reflecting varieties in
> experiences, biases and insights among our contributors1)

Hmmm... I can't see what it has to do with relativism at all, but then I
haven't read the Discover article.

Danny Yee.

P.S. Thanks to the person who posted the Web page for the fish!