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Testing Adaptationism Without (O)

In Discussion on March 3, 2010 by Joshua Smart

I had a brief thought while reading the critique of Orzack and Sober. It seems to me that even if Brandon and Rauscher’s critiques of (O) and its test are right on, O&S might still stand their ground about testing adaptationism. Suppose 45 of 50 studies clearly showed that the trait under investigation was locally optimal. Knowing that natural selection is the optimizing feature of evolution, wouldn’t be reasonable to say that we have some pretty strong evidence for adaptationism? (That is, some reasonable notion of adaptationism, not necessarily (A)).

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One Response to “Testing Adaptationism Without (O)”

  1. Not being able to intuit statistics, I looked up confidence interval calculator. With a sample size of fifty, one can be 95% sure that with a return of 45 out of 50 observations confirming ‘optimality’ the actual rate of compliance would be somewhere between 81.68 to 98.32%. There would be a 5% chance the actual rate of compliance was outside of that range. Thus there would be a high probability ‘most’ was achieved.

    The difficulty is in the optimality model. There is no guarantee the model is at all accurate. If the model confirms, this could be coincidence. If the model fails to confirm, it could be that the trait has not yet reached optimality, or the framing conditions for the model are not correct. When we have a ‘confirmation’, is it because we played with the model such that we got a results that looked close?

    Optimality models provide an interesting tool for suggesting ideas, but given that one cannot confirm either the framing assumptions or the resultant optimality without assuming the validity of the other, there is little such a model can confirm.

    Additionally, you are left now assuming that natural selection is the sufficient cause of this allegedly confirmed optimality, as you admit.

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