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Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Fodor

The one about the English fox and the Australian rabbit

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Red fox

Red fox

Thank you Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (F&P-P) for keeping Australian rabbits safe from English foxes:

The number of rabbits in Australia is unaffected by the number of foxes in England. That’s because the predations of the one on the other are all merely counterfactual, and possible-but-not-actual events do not exert selection pressures.

[Follows Just-as story as third in a series on Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong, which began with Smear campaign.]

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Just-as story

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Spandrel in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice

Spandrel in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice

In Chapter 6, Many are called but few are chosen: the problem of ‘selection for’, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini (F&P-P) launch their ‘conceptual’ assault on the theory of natural selection.

[Second in a series on Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong, which began with Smear campaign]

The chapter begins with a review of Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin’s ‘iconic’ 1979 paper: The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: A critique of the adaptationist programme. This is where Gould and Lewontin attack what they saw at the time as a pervasive methodology of evolutionary explanation:

It is based on faith in the power of natural selection as an optimizing agent. It proceeds by breaking an organism into unitary “traits” and proposing an adaptive story for each considered separately. [Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, 1979]

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Smear campaign

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Jerry Fodor

Jerry Fodor

I was delighted when my son gave me a copy of Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong for my birthday. Not because I did think Darwin got anything significantly wrong but because I didn’t. I like having my opinions and beliefs tested. I had heard of Jerry Fodor but not Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (not a name one is likely to forget).

[First in a series on Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong.]

I read the book through once and then a lot of it a second time. I really struggled to make head or tail of their arguments, and why they thought they had such a killer critique of the theory of natural selection.

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