Adaptationism and the Logic of Research Questions: How to Think Clearly About Evolutionary Causes

Biological Theory 10 (4):DOI: 10.1007/s13752-015-0214-2 (2015)
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Abstract

This article discusses various dangers that accompany the supposedly benign methods in behavioral evoltutionary biology and evolutionary psychology that fall under the framework of "methodological adaptationism." A "Logic of Research Questions" is proposed that aids in clarifying the reasoning problems that arise due to the framework under critique. The live, and widely practiced, " evolutionary factors" framework is offered as the key comparison and alternative. The article goes beyond the traditional critique of Stephen Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin, to present problems such as the disappearance of evidence, the mishandling of the null hypothesis, and failures in scientific reasoning, exemplified by a case from human behavioral ecology. In conclusion the paper shows that "methodological adaptationism" does not deserve its benign reputation.

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Elisabeth Lloyd
Indiana University, Bloomington

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