A positive review of “What Darwin Got Wrong”.

Coyne makes reference to a somewhat positive review of “What Darwin Got Wrong” here:


I’ll link to Coyne’s post even though I don’t want to say anything about it because, well, I should give him credit for posting one that he disagrees with.  The full review, by Dick Lewontin, is here:


What I’ll say about this is that Lewontin seems to raise much of the same problems that I did, so I’m not alone in my concerns.  How important they are might be open to question.  And he has an interesting take on the obvious examples of natural selection — like the peppered moth — that might raise some interesting questions about, at least, how you could know whether a trait exists because it was selected for or because it just happened to happen.

One Response to “A positive review of “What Darwin Got Wrong”.”

  1. erpiu Says:

    F&PP are wrong with respect to many if not most of the petty quibblings they included about natural selection (NS) and about evolution by natural selection (EBNS) as well as about what empirical studies of NS and EBNS can and cannot disentangle; but they got the most important thing right:

    According to F&PP, game theory (GT) would not be a theory either, because whenever you look at a made-up GTal system that can be “understood” using GTal analysis and principles, you cannot say anything about who will win unless you are told say what symbols the cards have, how many cards there are, what the specific rules of the game are, etc….

    And indeed game theory is not a “scientific theory” like that of gravitation since most GTal phenomenology depends crucially on the arbitrary details that are GTally relevant in each case.

    Natural selection (NS) narratives fall between these two extremes: they mobilize a firework of circumstantial natural-historical details that are GTally relevant (in ceteris-paribus or dynamically positive ways), but abstractly speaking the winners are always “the result” of the Bauplan’s potential to be altered (due to mutation, etc) so that modified “units” show up that deal with the specific selective agent/regime better than existing units do.

    This *non-exhausted* Bauplan’s potential is part of the unifying “gravity-like” force driving evolution by natural selection (EBNS) and GT-oriented evol.bio models have nothing “ontologically” comparable to offer (i.e., they have no obligate links to unifying natural entities and quantities).

    But this potential of Bauplaene is part of what van valen went after when he proposed what he called “the 3rd law of natural selection” (1976; van valen meant EBNS when writing “natural selection”).

    No need to say that the unifying “gravity-like” force driving NS (as opposed to that driving EBNS) cannot be studied in the same way and time scales as that driving EBNS…

    All in all, the trailer-park-level understanding of what a scientific theory should be that has been put on display by most of the phil.of biol and evol.biol establishment frauds who have commented on F&PP’s “idiots-savants” book rivals non-necessarily favorably with that of the peddler of puerilo-retarded animistico-suggestive anthropomorphizations, r.dawkins; and their arguments are barely less misguided and heuristically less pernicious that D’s syllogistic imbecility about “DNA with intentionality”.

    Therefore F&PP sense it correctly that the unifying “gravity-like” forces driving NS and EBNS remain unknown and neglected, and that available NS and EBNS stories are “different for each case” (let’s celebrate diversity!) because these narratives are ontologically truncated.

    Yes, in his tired recent NYRB piece on this affair, r.lewontin mentions that F&PP have stated that they are not asking for such a unifying force, but the real question is whether F&PP would have had anything to grumble about if the force was already a highly visible central concern and main research focus in evol.bio.

    Truly, it’s shocking to see –among “professional” philosophers of science– such ignorance of the deep epistemological canons that distinguish better-developed scientific theories, and to see –-among “professional” evolutionary biologists– such ignorance of deep evolutionary biology.

    This whole debate shows one more time what kind of charade the american system of promoting self-complacent paper-churner/grant-chaser hybrid frauds has generated…

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