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1/11/10

What Darwin Got Wrong - Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini

Next month Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini will published an interesting sounding book, What Darwin Got Wrong



The following is from Amazon.com

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Praise for What Darwin Got Wrong
“A challenging, intriguing argument that poses important scientific and philosophical questions about evolution . . . Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini take a brave stance that will likely draw reaction . . . from across the scientific and theological spectrum. A dense, scholarly, engaging testament to modern scientific thinking and its ability to adapt and evolve.” —Kirkus Reviews

“From the shocking title onward, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini have set the cat among Darwin’s pigeons. In arguing why the operation of natural selection says nothing about the causal mechanisms underlying the evolution of coextensive traits in an organism, they take us to the conceptual fault line at the heart of Darwin’s theory. My prediction is that Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini’s book will raise hackles galore wherever the theory of natural selection is all too glibly misused, not only in studies of the ontogeny and phylogeny of biology, but also in those great overlapping disciplines of philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and behavior—in short, human nature. This book will set the agenda for years to come. It cannot be ignored if the study of evolution is to be honest with itself.” —Gabriel Dover, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, Universities of Leicester and Cambridge, and author of Dear Mr. Darwin: Letters on the Evolution of Life and Human Nature

“Evolution needs a persuasive theory if the struggle for public acceptance is to be won. Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s bold treatise, What Darwin Got Wrong, convincingly shows that natural selection is not that theory. Drawing on scientific literature spanning the molecular, behavioral, and cognitive scales, with sophisticated excursions into evolutionary-developmental biology and the physics of complex systems, the authors perform a philosophical dismantling of the standard model of evolutionary change that is likely irreversible. Their unambiguous grounding in the factuality of evolution renders this work a service to science and a setback for its opponents.” —Stuart Newman, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College

“In this provocative, enlightening, and very entertaining book, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini argue that natural selection (NS) cannot explain how evolution occurs. The argument is largely conceptual and proceeds in two steps: (1) that theories of NS are conceptually parallel to Skinnerian theories of learning and so share most of the same debilitating problems, and (2) that NS is actually in worse conceptual shape when its central explanatory notion, ‘selecting for,’ is properly unpacked. This argument will annoy a lot of important people, both for its conclusion and for the evident delight the authors display in getting to it. The ensuing fireworks should be delightful, and (possibly) enlightening.” —Norbert Hornstein, Professor of Linguistics, University of Maryland“This highly informative and carefully argued study develops two central theses. First, there are alternatives to classical neo-Darwinian adaptationist theories that are plausible, and very possibly capture principles that are the rule rather than the exception even if the basic adaptationist account is accepted. Second, that account cannot be accepted. The two theses are sufficiently independent so that they can be evaluated separately. Whatever the outcome of intellectual engagement with this stimulating work, it is sure to be a most rewarding experience.” —Noam Chomsky

Product Description
This is not a book about God, or about intelligent design. Rather, here is a remarkable book, one that dares to challenge natural selection—not in the name of religion but in the name of good science. Most scientists are so terrified of religious attacks on the theory of evolution that it is never examined critically.

But there are major scientific and philosophical problems with the theory of natural selection. Darwin claimed the factors that determine the course of evolution are very largely environmental. This is a thesis that empirical results in biology are increasingly calling into question. The authors show that Darwinism is committed to inferring, from the premise that a kind of creature with a certain trait was selected, the conclusion that that kind of creature was selected for having that trait. Though such inferences are fallacious, they are nevertheless unavoidable within the Darwinist framework. Ultimately, Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini level a devastating critique against Darwinist orthodoxy and suggest new ways of thinking about evolution.

Fodor first presented his critique in the London Review of Books, in an article that generated heated discussion on both sides of the Atlantic. What Darwin Got Wrong is certain to be as controversial as it is precisely argued.


This essay is copyrighted by Mariano of the “Atheism is Dead” blog at http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com.
It may be republished in part or in its entirety on websites, blogs, or any print media for whatever purpose—in agreement or in order to criticize it—only as long as the following conditions are met:
1) Give credit to “Mariano of the ‘Atheism is Dead’ blog at http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com”
2) Inform me as to which essay is being reproduced and where it is being reproduced via the comments section
at this link

5 comments:

  1. Just a formatting comment. The Hornstein and Chomsky quotes are not separated, giving the appearance that both quotes are attributed to Chomsky.

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  2. This book should be interesting. I'm glad to see that its provocative title won it free press from creationists, while containing no content to lend ID or creationism any support. The book, of course, does not challenge common descent, which is supported by irrefutable evidence. The book only appears to caution against overuse and misuse of the theory of natural selection and to challenge scientists to develop a more detailed theory capable of making more specific predictions.

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  3. A quote from Fodor (Against Darwinism):

    I’ve provided not the slightest reason to doubt the central Darwinist theses of the common origin and mutability of species. Nor have I offered the slightest reason to doubt that we and chimpanzees had (relatively) recent common ancestors. Nor I do suppose that the intentions of a designer, intelligent or otherwise, are among the causally sufficient conditions that good historical narratives would appeal to in
    order to explain why a certain kind of creature has the phenotypic traits it does (saving, of course, cases like Granny and her zinnias.) It is, in short, one thing to wonder whether evolution happens; it’s quite another thing to wonder whether adaptation is the mechanism by which evolution happens. Well, evolution happens; the evidence that it does is overwhelming. I blush to have to say that so late in the day; but these are bitter times.

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  4. It is inevitable that creationist will rally round this book as "evidence" against evolution per se, despite the authors' categorically defending the fact of evolution if not the mechanism.
    For what it's worth Fodor and Palmarini, in my opinion are not really saying anything evolutionary biologists don't already know. That epigenetics and developmental constraints contribute to phenotype is now self evident. That raw material offered for environmental selection isn't based soley on the strictly independent "selfish" gene is not disputed, even by neo-Darwinists. Evo-Devo is an interesting adjunct to evolutionary theory but it is not a replacement for Darwinian selection which still operates.
    The weakest argument they make is that diluting natural selection as a driver for speciation makes the concept redundent outside of Biology. This is nonsense since most applications of the evolutionary algorithm are in simple systems where it works well, if anything Dennett's thesis stands more robustlty that the purely Darwinian one.

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  5. You miss the point of the book.
    Man evolved from apes. They have no problem with that. The question is whether we can predict which genetic mutations resulted in survival.
    The book is founded fully in materialism and atheism. The subject is our inability to map precisely how evolution has worked to get us where we are.

    It's that simple. Sorry kids

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