Friday, January 27, 2012

Quote of the Day

Considering the evident dangers of applying the adaptationist program incorrectly, why are the Darwinians nevertheless so intent on applying it? The principal reason for this is its great heuristic value. The adaptationist question, "What is the function of a given structure or organ?" has been for centuries the basis for every advance in physiology. If it had not been for the adaptationist program, we probably would still not yet know the functions of thymus, spleen, pituitary, and pineal. Harvey's question "Why are there valves in the veins?" was a major stepping stone in his discovery of the circulation of blood. If one answer turned out to be wrong, the adaptationist program demanded another answer until the true meaning of the structure was established or until it could be shown that this feature was merely an incidental byproduct of the total genotype. It would seem to me that there is nothing wrong with the adaptationist program, provided it is properly applied.

Ernst Mayr
"How to Carry Out the Adaptationist Program?"
The American Naturalist 121/3 (1983): 324-334.

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