Thursday, September 14, 2006

Evolutionary Psychology, Dan Dennett, and the supposedly algorithmic nature of evolution

In my previous post about the wrongness of Evolutionary Psychology, after connecting the dots that led to that conclusion, I then started thinking about Dan Dennett’s strong, even vociferous, support for the algorithmic nature of evolution.

Then, further dots connected, as I realized how connected this is to his being a strong adaptationist.

If adaptations cause traits that approach the optimal or even reach it, we can define “the optimal” as a specific point. This, then, gives us something analogous to convergent series in mathmatics, whether geometric or arithmetic series.

One formula for either type of series solves any convergent series.

I don’t know if Dennett — or other strong adaptationists who are also “algorithmists” — have consciously thought of this analogy, but I’m thinking it has had to be floating somewhere in their minds. Even if not, it’s one of the better arguments that I think could be mustered for the algorithmic reduction of evolution.

Well, first of all, I think this is a case of Dennett being hoist by his own petard, found guilty of not reductionism but greedy reductionism.

That, though, is a secondary point.

The main point is that, since adaptationism simply isn’t true, per my previous post, and not only isn’t true, but as quasi-utopian and arguably philosophically idealist isn’t good science, that an algorithmic understanding of evolution that is pinned to adaptationism also fails on both counts.

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