Adaptationism: Hypothesis or Heuristic?

Abstract

Elliott Sober (1987, 1993) and Orzack and Sober (forthcoming) argue that adaptationism is a very general hypothesis that can be tested by testing various particular hypotheses that invoke natural selection to explain the presence of traits in populations of organisms. In this paper, I challenge Sober‘s claim that adaptationism is an hypothesis and I argue that it is best viewed as a heuristic (or research strategy). Biologists would still have good reasons for employing this research strategy even if it turns out that natural selection is not the most important cause of evolution.

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Resnik, D. Adaptationism: Hypothesis or Heuristic?. Biology & Philosophy 12, 39–50 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1017936706537

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  • adaptationism
  • natural selection
  • heuristics