I understand that Los Angeles is a barren wasteland of ennui in February, unlike Morris, Minnesota, so in a fit of altruism I’m bringing a spark of Minnesota excitement to boring California. I’ll be speaking at CFI LA, in a talk that is sure to piss off a lot of people.
Bad Biology: How Adaptationist Thinking Corrupts Science
11 a.m., Sun., Feb. 15 – Hollywood; 4:30 p.m. – Costa Mesa
In 1979, Gould and Lewontin published an important paper, “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme”, in which they deplored the narrow focus on seeing evolution as only a process of adaptation. They further criticized the field of evolutionary biology for perpetuating this pattern of flawed thinking.
Biologist PZ Myers bemoans that their warnings have gone unheeded in some biological sub-disciplines. He’ll be discussing a few examples of bad evolutionary biology, including the “human biodiversity” movement that is little more than a collection of pseudoscientific rationalizations for racism; evolutionary psychology, which seeks to explain modern human biology with imaginary scenarios of adaptive constraints from 10,000 years ago; and the ENCODE project, which was an obvious and overt exercise in adaptive bias applied to genomic data. A common thread among these examples is an excessive reliance on adaptationist thinking and a lack of appreciation of the diversity of mechanisms underlying our evolutionary history.
Although, to be honest, another factor is that February tends to be our very coldest, bleakest month, so a weekend in Southern California seemed like a good idea.