The Critical Rationalist

ISSN: 1393-3809

Volume 01 Number 04


Editor-in-Chief: Dr. Ray Scott Percival

Adaptation Considered Harmful:
Darwin's Problem Revisited

Barry McMullin

Keywords: Darwinism, Adaptation, Artificial Life.


Evolutionary Epistemology--as formulated by D.T. Campbell and Karl Popper--can be seen as a more or less explicit and conscious attempt to generalise Darwinian theory, in an effort to solve the fundamental problem of epistemology: how can knowledge grow? I think we are entitled, therefore, to be at least a little concerned that Popper himself for a long time regarded Darwinian theory as tautological and/or metaphysical; and (worse?) that when he eventually recanted, he proceeded to declare that Darwinism has, in fact, been refuted!

In an attempt to make sense of this situation, I here revisit Darwin's original problem. I will suggest that once this problem is properly understood, then the more common confusions and misunderstandings associated with Darwin's solution can be satisfactorily resolved. In particular, I make the modest terminological proposal that the word "adaptation" be forthwith excised from the lexicon of evolutionary theory--it has done a good deal more harm than good!

Finally, I will briefly consider the relevance to Darwin's problem of some recent (purported) demonstrations of "artificial" Darwinian evolution, or Artificial Life.

Copyright © 1996 All Rights Reserved.
TCR Issue Timestamp: Tue Dec 31 17:37:08 GMT 1996