Adaptationism, exaptationism, and evolutionary behavioral science

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (4):534-547 (2002)
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Abstract

In our target article, we discussed the standards of evidence that could be used to identify adaptations, and argued that building an empirical case that certain features of a trait are best explained by exaptation, spandrel, or constraint requires the consideration, testing, and rejection of adaptationist hypotheses. We are grateful to the 31 commentators for their thoughtful insights. They raised important issues, including the meaning of “exaptation”; whether Gould and Lewontin's critique of adaptationism was primarily epistemological or ontological; the necessity, sufficiency, or utility of design evidence, phylogenetic analyses, homology, and molecular genetics in distinguishing exaptations from adaptations; whether adaptationists accept adaptationist hypotheses too quickly; and the real utility of adaptationism to human behavioral science. We organize our response along the major points of the target article, in some situations defending our original claims and in others modifying them. While debate on these issues will undoubtedly continue, we are cautiously optimistic that the main points of the target article (as modified by our response) will help move the debate in a positive direction.

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