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Author Topic:   PZ Myers vs. Adaptationism
caffeine
Member (Idle past 83 days)
Posts: 1800
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008


Message 23 of 49 (763417)
07-24-2015 4:02 PM


An argument about nothing
I can't help but feel that this is one of those arguments about absolutely nothing that plague many fields. That's consider the facts that every single biologist in the world agrees on:

1. Natural selection is an important part of the explanation for to diversity of life we see today.

2. The more fit a trait is, the greater the chance of it spreading to fixation.

3. Evolutionary change is constrained by existing function.

4. Not every trait of every organism is adaptively relevant.

All I can see that's left is an aesthetic argument about the style in which people present their views. If we want to talk about something specific - some particular trait where an adaptive explanation is widely assumed but has not been demonstrated - then there's something to have a conversation about. Without this, the whole topic is just a bunch of empty words.


Replies to this message:
 Message 24 by MrHambre, posted 07-24-2015 4:16 PM caffeine has responded

  
caffeine
Member (Idle past 83 days)
Posts: 1800
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008


Message 25 of 49 (763424)
07-24-2015 4:53 PM
Reply to: Message 24 by MrHambre
07-24-2015 4:16 PM


Re: An argument about nothing
And the fact is that there continues to be heated debate about these matters in biology. Maybe the reason we can dismiss the entire issue as irrelevant is that we're far removed from the academic battlefields in which it takes place, and the controversy is just not sexy enough for major media attention. It could also be that we're much happier browbeating religious people for their incoherent grasp of modern biology than delving into subjects that real scientists like PZ Myers and John O. Reiss (among many others) take to heart.

Or, there could be no meaningful debate going on at all. which seems much more likely to me, having heard Dawkins and Gould argue about adapatationism without giving any sign that they actually disagreed on anything substantive.

Now, one point Gould did make well is that some biologists are too quick to accept a plausible adaptive explanation without any evidence. But if this is all you want to say, no one will disagree with you. And that's because this isn't a fundamental issue in biology that's ignored because it's not sexy enough. On the contrary, it's a sexed-up argument about labels between people who do not disagree on things that actually matter.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 24 by MrHambre, posted 07-24-2015 4:16 PM MrHambre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 27 by MrHambre, posted 07-25-2015 8:50 AM caffeine has responded

  
caffeine
Member (Idle past 83 days)
Posts: 1800
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008


Message 28 of 49 (764231)
07-27-2015 7:43 AM
Reply to: Message 27 by MrHambre
07-25-2015 8:50 AM


Re: The Emperor's Fashion Sense
Or, it could be that the distinctions are too subtle for people like us, who are more comfortable having arguments with people who think the Earth is only a few thousand years old and that species were each created de novo by a Big Magic Guy. Philosophical differences we consider meaningful and substantive and those that generate debate in the expert community are probably very different. People like PZ Myers and John O. Reiss aren't religious nutbags or Discovery Institute cranks. But maybe that's exactly why you can't work up interest in understanding their arguments. In any case, since they're PhDs in evolutionary biology, I have no qualms about giving them the benefit of the doubt for the legitimacy of their gripes.

Amongst the things people with PhDs argue about is whether Cyanidiales are a phylum, a sub-phylum or a class of algae, and as such whether they should be known as Cyanidiales, Cyanidophyta or Cyanidiophyceae. Now, given that we know for a fact that this is an argument about nothing substantive, and yet educated people with PhDs are happy to blether about it, clearly the possession of a PhD is not sufficient to stop people having arguments about style and presentation rather than about factual matters. I’ll need more than an appeal to authority to convince me.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 27 by MrHambre, posted 07-25-2015 8:50 AM MrHambre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 29 by MrHambre, posted 07-27-2015 10:22 AM caffeine has responded

  
caffeine
Member (Idle past 83 days)
Posts: 1800
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008


Message 31 of 49 (765338)
07-27-2015 2:56 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by MrHambre
07-27-2015 10:22 AM


Re: The Emperor's Fashion Sense
Well, as long as we're talking about convincing, it's not like you offered anything other than your own opinion to support your claim that "the whole topic is just a bunch of empty words." I at least posted a video of a talk PZ Myers gave, outlining his reasoning. He's talking about things that go to the heart of how we understand natural history: the way we explain fitness in organisms and populations, the way we conceptualize design in nature, and the way we define the relationship between adaptation and evolution. You haven't addressed a single one of his points.

That's because I haven't watched the video. I don't stand for argumentum ad videum, either. I was trying to encourage you to talk about something specific - "Trait A is argued to be selected for because of X adaptive advantage, but this is unjustified because Y" is something you can have a serious discussion about. "Some biologists somewhere sometime say some things that are wrong" is going nowhere.

I see that RAZD has mentioned some specifc arguments from the video; and I think the female orgasm one is a good one, for a couple of reasons. Firstly there's the variety of female experience. Women vary a lot more in their ability to acheive orgasm than men - according to self-reporting a signifcant minority of women never acheive orgasm, which makes me sad. If the ability to orgasm is selected for in women to encourage them to have sex, then the selective pressure does not appear to be very strong.

Secondly, there's the fact that most women do not orgasm just from penetrative sex. If female orgasm came about because women who orgasm are more likely to have sex and thus reproduce, why aren't nerves rearranged so that penetration is the easiest way to orgasm. Surely this would be the way to make pleasure-seeking most likely to result in pregnancy.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 29 by MrHambre, posted 07-27-2015 10:22 AM MrHambre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 32 by Taq, posted 07-27-2015 3:22 PM caffeine has not yet responded
 Message 33 by MrHambre, posted 07-28-2015 6:19 AM caffeine has not yet responded

  
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