Jerry Fodor, in the London Review of Books, takes a swing at adaptationism in the name of Evo-Devo. I’m not sure that he lands any really new or heavy blows, but I have only read it once and I am more than usually stupid with a cold this morning. Germane, perhaps, is a letter from a friend in Boston:
Teaching my evolutionary biology course again this fall – I’ve re-read the Sean Rice textbook now for the 4th time, and it’s really on the money. One can prove — prove in the sense of proof – that there’s exactly one modeling case where the Dawkins’ gene’s-eye-view makes the right predictions – which
is all a scientist cares about – and in all the other cases – ie, 99.99% of biology – it doesn’t work … In the sense of: it gives the WRONG predictions.
Thus it is not a matter of semantics or armchair philosophy about ‘levels of selection’ — it is simply like getting the thing wrong, like saying there are ‘clumps’ like OH instead of molecules or atoms.
It’s just that way. Tough luck. But that’s really how it is. In every other case – if there’s sex, fertility selection, if selective forces change with varying allele frequency (density dependence); if an individual’s striving for increased fitness reduces the mean population fitness — all of these situations illustrate the failure of the Dawkins view.
Yet, this goes unsaid. It also indicates that evolutionary psychology, as I understand it cannot possibly succeed if it takes ‘allele frequency’ as its central driving principle.