What Darwin Got Wrong Hardcover – 4 Feb 2010
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an overdue and valuable onslaught on neo-Darwinist simplicities (Mary Midgley Guardian)
[the authors] make a persuasive case that the role of natural selection in evolution is ripe for reassessment. To say so should not be seen as scientific heresy or capitulation to the forces of unreason - it is a brave and welcome challenge. (Philip Ball Sunday Times)
makes for entertaining and engaging reading (Samir Okasha TLS)
Whatever the outcome of intellectual engagement with this stimulating work, it is sure to be a most rewarding experience (Noam Chomsky)
A convincing case ... It looks like it's back to the drawing board. (The Scotsman, *****)
A groundbreaking attack on the most influential scientific orthodoxy of the last 150 years.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini are two highly regarded senior academics in their own fields - or at least, they were until they published this book. Since then all kinds of curses have been rained down upon their heads and all kinds of vegetables have been thrown at them. As their argument attacks the theory of natural selection at a time when it is fighting a fierce action against the massed ranks of creationists, that is hardly suprising.
Given the controversy this book has stirred up I think I should say very briefly where I am coming from. I have no professional or academic expertise in evolutionary biology, I have always accepted natural selection as a fact and I call myself an atheist. I also have a very rusty degree in philosophy which has been useful in reading this book. I have given it five stars, not because I am bowled over by its arguments or committed to its point of view but because I believe that in science challenges are good and controversy is generally productive. A second reason is that 'What Darwin Got Wrong' is also a very enjoyable read: one of the most genial and well-written - I didn't say 'easy' - philosophy texts I have read in a long time.
So, why would you want to read this book?Read more ›
They drew an analogy with the spandrels of San Marco: at first glance, these features linking the dome and arches look to have been designed for the sake of the beautiful images that adorn them. But further reflection reveals otherwise: they were actually a by-product of resting a dome on arches! The moral for biologists: take care to distinguish the real products of selection from the "free-riders".
In their provocative new book, Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini want to draw a different moral from this story. What it really shows, they argue, is that the idea of a trait being "selected for" is incoherent. To say the spandrels were put there to hold up the dome is, after all, to make a claim about what the architect had in mind. Since, by contrast, there is no mind in charge of natural selection, it makes no sense to say that some trait was "selected for" while another was a "free rider". Though they add a lot of complicated extras, this is the core of their master argument against Darwinism, as set out in Chapter 6.
So here's the obvious reply: the difference between selected-for traits and their free riders is a causal difference. Selected-for traits causally contribute to the reproductive success of organisms, whereas free riders don't. To say some trait is a "free rider" is to say that, regardless of its current function, it evolved without contributing to the success of its bearers.Read more ›
1)Too many words that are clearly used to make the aurthors feel superior and constantly having to consult a dictionary is incredibly annoying.
2)None of the arguments made are either new or convincing in the radical way they are made (though they are right to point out evolutionary constraints etc, just not to make the absurd leap to the conclusion that natural selection is unimportant).
3)They constantly quote Ernst Mayr from 1963 (I thought we were in 2010) and they seem to suggest that real scientists believe in bean bag genetics. Nobody believes in bean bag genetics, it is just a way of explaining an idea.
4)As I understand it they argue that because you can't tell which trait is being directly selected for and which is a hitchhiking trait, then by some logic it means that selection can't be important. They raise an interesting point (though it's been around for over 30 years) but the degree to which they take the argument is absurd.
5)Their criticisms of game theory are weak. Game theory is a way of simplifying interactions between individuals/species and is thus a model. No model is taken as literal truth.
6)They seem unable to explain their argument in simple terms. The second half (the harder of the two parts) seems to be full of philosophical smugness at their own power of reasoning and as such comes across as elitist (not helped by the continual use of latin, french phrases and Jerry Fodor's jacket photograph)
I have to say the more I read the more I found myself shouting "that's not an argument against natural selection".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The authors are very brave, stupid or calculating and I can't decide which. They challenge a central belief in evolutionary theory, and I assume knowingly, that will either open... Read morePublished on 25 May 2013 by Phil Jazz
You need to be very alert to read this book, but it is worth it. The title is a bit misleading; Darwin cannot be held to account.Published on 15 Jan. 2013 by Dr. F. Arnold
This is a relatively short book with an additional "Afterward and reply to the critics". The authors repeatedly say that they think natural selection is wrong, and in the afterward... Read morePublished on 16 Oct. 2012 by JamesJohnson
Why on earth is this book attracting such a mountain of criticism?
Professor Brian Goodwin came to a similar conclusion in his book "How the Leopard Changed His Spots"... Read more
Certain Biblical fundamentalists, supporting Seven-Day Creationism at related in the Bible criticized Darwin for his failure to observe signs of design in things and attributed... Read morePublished on 4 April 2011 by Desmond J. Keenan
This book was hard work to get through. In my view, it had no flow (until the close of part 2), or level of engagement, that you get from the best of the popular science writers,... Read morePublished on 19 Jan. 2011 by Jonathan Green
Last year saw the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the origin of species which was commemorated with the appearance of any number of articles, books, TV programmes etc... Read morePublished on 12 April 2010 by Moon Michael
From a layman's perspective this book is hard going at times but worth persisting with. However, I think that the authors went too far in their proposition that the theory of... Read morePublished on 30 Mar. 2010 by Jim Beam
When Erasmus Darwin proposed that natural selection (a term he borrowed from contemporary animal breeders)could account for evolution among wild species, he replaced the God of... Read morePublished on 29 Mar. 2010 by A reader