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Talk:What Darwin Got Wrong

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BON addition of syllogism[edit]

Our BON friend copy-pasta'd a section from An Outline of the Fodor & Piattelli-Palmarini Argument against Natural Selection, by Norbert Hornstein. The full "logical" statement reads, in full:

Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini have recently argued that the theory of natural selection (NS) fails to explain how evolution occurs (Fodor & PiattelliPalmarini 2010; F&PP). Their argument is not with the fact of evolution but with the common claim that NS provides a causal mechanism for this fact. Their claim has been greeted with considerable skepticism, if not outright hostility.1 Despite the rhetorical heat of much of the discussion, I do not believe that critics have generally engaged the argument that F&PP have actually presented. It is clear that the validity of F&PP’s argument is of interest to biolinguists. Indeed, there has been much discussion of late concerning the evolution of the faculty of language and what this implies for the structure of Universal Grammar.

To facilitate evaluation of F&PP’s proposal, the following attempts to sketch a reconstruction of their argument that, to my knowledge, has not been considered.

  1. ‘Select’ is not ‘select for’, the latter being intensional.2
  2. The ‘free-rider problem’ shows that NS per se does not have the theoretical resources to distinguish between ‘select’ and ‘select for’.
  3. If not, then how can NS causally explain evolutionary change?
  4. There are two ways of circumventing the free-rider problem.
    1. Attribute mental powers to NS, i.e. NS as Mother Nature, thereby endowing NS with inherent intensionality and so the wherewithal to distinguish ‘select’ from ‘select for’.
    2. Find within NS a law supporting counterfactuals, i.e. laws of natural selection/evolution, which also would suffice to provide the requisite intensionality.
  5. The first option is clearly nuts, so NS accounts must be presupposing (4b).
  6. But NS contains no laws of evolution — a fact that seems to be widely recognized!
  7. So, NS can’t do what it purports to do: give a causal theory that explains the facts of evolution.
  8. Importantly, NS fails not because causal accounts cannot be given for individual cases of evolution. They can be and routinely are. Rather, the accounts are individual causal scenarios, natural histories specific to the case at hand, and there is nothing in common across the mechanisms invoked by these individual accounts besides the fact that they end with winners and losers. This is, in fact, often acknowledged. The only relevant question then is whether NS might contain laws of NS/evolution? F&PP argue that NS does not contain within itself such laws and that, given the main lines of the theory, it is very unlikely that any could be developed.
  9. Interestingly, this gap(/flaw) in NS is now often remarked in the biology literature. F&PP sample some work of this sort in the book. The research they review tends to have a common form in that it explores a variety of structural constraints that, were they operative, would circumscribe the possible choices NS faces. However, importantly, the mechanisms proposed are adventitious to NS; they can be added to it but do not follow from it.
  10. If these kinds of proposals succeed, then they could be combined with NS to provide a causal theory of evolution. However, this would require giving up the claim that NS explains evolution. Rather, at most, NS + structural theories together explain evolutionary change.4
  11. But, were such accounts to develop, the explanatory weight of the combined ‘NS + structural theory’ account would be carried by the added structural constraints — not NS. In other words, all that is missing from NS is that part that can give it causal heft and, though this could be added to NS, NS itself does not contain the resources to develop such a theory on its own. Critics might then conclude as follows: This means that NS can give causal accounts when supplemented in the ways indicated. However, this is quite tendentious. It is like saying Newton’s theory suffices to account for electro-magnetic effects for, after all, Newton’s laws can be added to Maxwell’s to give an account of electro-magnetic phenomena!
  12. F&PP make one additional point of interest to linguists. Their review and conclusions concerning NS are not really surprising, for NS replays the history of empiricist psychology — though strictly speaking, the latter was less nutty than NS, for empiricists had a way of distinguishing intensional from non-intensional as minds are just the sorts of things that are inherently intensional. In other words, though attributing mental intensional powers to NS (i.e. Mother Nature) is silly, attributing such powers to humans is not.

This is the argument. To be honest, it strikes me as pretty powerful if correct, and it does indeed look very similar to early debates between rationalist and empiricist approaches to cognition. However, my present intention has not been to defend the argument, but to lay it out given that much of the criticism against F&PP’s book seems to have misconstrued what they were saying.

I... am not sure what this argument is asserting. 32℉uzzy; 0℃atPotato (talk/stalk) 01:57, 23 November 2017 (UTC)


Why does this page have the "Creationism" navigation template and why is it in the "Creationism" category? Both of the authors of this book were atheists. 2A01:E35:8BDF:8420:993:BBCC:DDFF:8B52 (talk) 21:31, 2 August 2019 (UTC)

Categories are to help editors navigate. Creationists are mentioned in the article, and the book is apparently of interest to them. Furthermore, the arguments made in the book have some resemblance to arguments made by creationists, so other creationist content on the wiki is related, so the navigation makes sense. Omicron (talk) 21:06, 1 May 2021 (UTC)
The book is not on a creationist topic nor are the authors creationists. No creationist was involved in the book. None of the arguments made by the authors were made by creationists. In particular, the second part of the book is an original argument which was not made by anyone, besides Fodor, prior to its release. Creationists may "like" lots of different things, however, it does not follow that X is a creationist book just because creationists like X. Moreover, other books on this topic, such as As Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, are classified under "Philosophy." As such, the current "Creationism" template is not accurate. (talk) 15:12, 3 May 2021 (UTC)

Discussion on creationism that was removed due to constant edit warring[edit]

Edit war a few too many times under different ips, get a discussion closed and a page lock. Revision for those interested. Others can bring up discussion again, though, this measure was taken to reduce the edit warring and a stronger measure to dismiss the anon editor. --It's-a me, Lgm sigpic.png LeftyGreenMario!(Mod) 18:28, 25 March 2020 (UTC)


I stumbled upon this article by chance, I haven't read this work or come into contact with it before, but just as I was reviewing some logic stuff this article puzzled me because of its (inconsistent) use of language: in one paragraph it writes 'intensional' while in the next it writes about 'intentionality'. Now while not entirely unrelated, philosophically and in logic and language these are very different things and the distinction is important. I don't immediately see how what they talk about is 'intensional' in the way it is used in logic, but perhaps they use it with a broader (archaic) meaning. As I haven't read the work, I wouldn't know how they spelt it, but on the talk page something copied from a deprecated source (I haven't checked archive yet) also uses the 'intension' spelling with an 's'. The article using both spellings is a bit confusing though, although perhaps it's because critics used 'intention' and the authors on this subject meant the same thing? I also don't see how 'nomological laws' would be an intensional explanation here, but perhaps that's on me and there's just something I don't know, or it's because the original argument is such dogshit (pardon my language) that it just doesn't make sense anyway, cause ascribing 'intention' to nomological laws also seems peculiar for as far as I know, though perhaps it's doable with just a bit of an 'off' meaning. I was just going to fix the spelling, but as I'm not sure now I thought I'd just point it out and await the opinion of someone with relevant knowledge, lest my edit otherwise just make the article worse. ConverginglyRational (talk) 14:53, 9 November 2022 (UTC)

Should anyone answer to this, I do see how it could be 'intensional' as they refer to properties as opposed to purely extension (because of correlations), considering counterfactuals, for being able to give an account of a difference of the necessity of properties versus accidens properties etc. I suppose. Meanwhile on 'the other wiki' as it stands now, I see the same use of 'intension' and 'intention', both of them, so without background in this particular discussion perhaps I jumped the gun on the spelling. I still think perhaps this article could be improved, although if there have already been edit-wars over this perhaps that's tricky. I don't know how things are/were on wikipedia with the relevant article, perhaps we should link to it here though as it's a bit more expansive than ours at the moment. While it seems relevant to the current category, wouldn't the philosophy category still fit too, considering its authors and the philosophical discussion? However perhaps two big categories on a small article is silly, I'm not sure how these categories are usually done, whether combinations happen often. In any case I'll leave it be for now, I'm not the person to work on this as I haven't read the relevant works any way. ConverginglyRational (talk) 16:07, 9 November 2022 (UTC)