Adaptationist Claims – Conceptual Problems


Adaptationism is the name for a general approach in evolutionary biology that emphasizes the importance of natural selection above all other evolutionary processes. In 1978, Gould and Lewontin published a now classic critique of adaptationism, launching a fierce debate about both the empirical and conceptual adequacy of this approach.

Keywords: adaptationism; adaptation; constraint; natural selection

Further Reading

Amundson R (1994) Two conceptions of constraint: adaptationism and the challenge from developmental biology. Philosophy of Science 61: 556–578.

Brandon R (1990) Adaptation and Environment. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Ellstrand N (1983) Why are juveniles smaller than their parents? Evolution 37: 1091–1094.

Gould SJ and Lewontin RC (1978) The spandrels of San Marcos the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 205: 581–598.

Orzack S and Sober E (2001) Optimality and Adaptationism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Profet M (1992) Pregnancy sickness as adaptation: a deterrent to maternal ingestion of teratogens. In: Barkow J, Cosmides L and Tooby J (eds) The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Horvath, Christopher D(Apr 2001) Adaptationist Claims – Conceptual Problems. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003451]