Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 231–246 | Cite as

Natural selection and history

Article

Abstract

In “Spandrels,” Gould and Lewontin criticized what they took to be an all-too-common conviction, namely, that adaptation to current environments determines organic form. They stressed instead the importance of history. In this paper, we elaborate upon their concerns by appealing to other writings in which those issues are treated in greater detail. Gould and Lewontin’s combined emphasis on history was three-fold. First, evolution by natural selection does not start from scratch, but always refashions preexisting forms. Second, preexisting forms are refashioned by the selection of whatever mutational variations happen to arise: the historical order of mutations needs to be taken into account. Third, the order of environments and selection pressures also needs to be taken into account.

Keywords

Adaptationism History Historicity Chance Contingency 

References

  1. Beatty J (2004) Chance variation: Darwin on orchids. Philos Sci 73(5):629–641. doi:10.1086/518332 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Coddington JA (1988) Cladistic tests of adaptational hypotheses. Cladistics 4:3–22. doi:10.1111/j.1096-0031.1988.tb00465.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Darwin C (1872) On the origin of species by means of natural selection, 6th edn. Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Darwin C (1877) On the various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects, 2nd edn. Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Dollo L (1905) Les Dinosauriens adaptés à la vie quadrupède secondaire. Bull Soc belge Geol Pal Hydr 19:441–448Google Scholar
  6. Dollo L (1913) Podocnemius congolensis, tortue fluviatile nouvelle du Montien (Paléocène inférieur) du Congo et l'évolution des cheloniens fluviatiles. Ann Mus Congo belge, Géol Pal Miner, serie 3, Bas et Moyen Congo 1:47–65Google Scholar
  7. Gould SJ (1970) Dollo on Dollo’s law: irreversibility and the status of evolutionary laws. J Hist Biol 3:189–212. doi:10.1007/BF00137351 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gould SJ (1978a, 1980) The panda’s thumb. In: The panda’s thumb: more reflections in natural history. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Gould SJ (1978b, 1980) Senseless signs of history. In: The panda’s thumb: more reflections in natural history. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Gould SJ (1978c, 1980) Double trouble. In: The panda’s thumb: more reflections in natural history. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Gould SJ, Lewontin RC (1979) The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 205:581–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gould SJ, Robinson BA (1994) The promotion and prevention of recoiling in a maximally snaillike vermetid gastropod: a case study for the centenary of Dollo’s law. Paleobiology 20:368–390Google Scholar
  13. Griffiths PE (1996) The historical turn in the study of adaptation. Br J Philos Sci 47:511–532. doi:10.1093/bjps/47.4.511 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lennox J (1993) Darwin was a teleologist. Biol Philos 8:409–421. doi:10.1007/BF00857687 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lewontin RC (1967) The principle of historicity in evolution. In: Moorhead PS, Kaplan MM (eds) Mathematical challenges to the neo-Darwinian interpretation of evolution. The Wistar Institute Press, Philadelphia, pp 81–88Google Scholar
  16. Lewontin RC (1974) The genetic basis of evolutionary change. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Lewontin RC (1978) Adaptation. Sci Am 239(3):156–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Maynard Smith J (1975,1993) The theory of evolution, 3rd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Maynard Smith J, Burian R, Kaufmann S, Alberch P, Campbell J, Goodwin B, Lande R, Raup D, Wolpert L (1985) Developmental constraints and evolution. Q Rev Biol 60:285–287Google Scholar
  20. Sober E (1988) Reconstructing the past: parsimony, evolution, and inference. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations