Field of Science

If you don’t understand evolutionary biology...

Donald Prothero* joins the long list of people who have read and reviewed What Darwin Got Wrong by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini: If you don’t understand evolutionary biology, don’t write a book about it!

Here's the gist of Prothero's criticism:
Yet FPP take the Gould/Lewontin critique too far, and make the absurd claim that because some features are possibly constrained and not fine-tuned by natural selection, we cannot assume that natural selection works anywhere. What about all those studies that demonstrate tight correlations of cause and effect between a feature and the selective response that occurs when nature intervenes? According to FPP, these are not conclusive enough. Therefore, whenever we have a large data set that shows a strong correlation between say, obesity and heart disease, or increases in carbon dioxide and global warming, we cannot even begin to suggest that there might be a causal connection. If this is the angle that FPP are pushing, then they have a dispute with almost all of science, not just evolutionary biology. [Emphasis added.]
I can only second that. The inference that we cannot assume that NS works anywhere is absurd, because i) it is very, VERY well understood theoretically, and ii) as Prothero points out, there are many studies that show "that have done careful work with controls and minimizing the variables that conclusively show natural selection to be the only reasonable explanation for the results".

* More on Donald Prothero and his great book, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, here, and on debating creationists here.


  1. besides:

    Can you imagine a world without natural selection?

    It is what happened to a set of stupid ideas in the heads of people who don't understand anything,

    cheers Arend

  2. No, I could not imagine there being no natural selection. It could mean next to nothing for in evolution, but the process is inherent in systems with differential reproductive success and heritability.

  3. I also noticed that if F&PP's argument were taken to its logical conclusion, it would invalidate virtually all of science.


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