, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 659-671

The adaptive landscape of science

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Abstract

In 1988, David Hull presented an evolutionary account of science. This was a direct analogy to evolutionary accounts of biological adaptation, and part of a generalized view of Darwinian selection accounts that he based upon the Universal Darwinism of Richard Dawkins. Criticisms of this view were made by, among others, Kim Sterelny, which led to it gaining only limited acceptance. Some of these criticisms are, I will argue, no longer valid in the light of developments in the formal modeling of evolution, in particular that of Sergey Gavrilets’ work on adaptive landscapes. If we can usefully recast the Hullian view of science as being driven by selection in terms of Gavrilets’ and Kaufmann’s view of there being “giant components” of high-fitness networks through any realistic adaptive landscape, we may now find it useful to ask what the adaptive pressures on science are, and to extend the metaphor into a full analogy. This is in effect to reconcile the Fisherianism of the Dawkins–Hull approach to selection and replicators, with a Wrightean drift account of social constructionist views of science, preserving, it is to be hoped, the valuable aspects of both.