John Hawks recently posted a comment about adaptationists [see Richard Lewontin: "[T]oo rapid for genetic adaptation"].
Hawks said ...
I don't really find the "pluralist versus adaptationist" debate very interesting. Despite the vocal complaints of some, I can't ever seem to locate the mythical "adaptationists" who deny that non-adaptive evolution ever happens. So the "debate" always comes down to whether particular adaptive hypotheses are true. Since no scientific hypothesis is true a priori, and since "those adaptationists are always saying stupid things" is not a scientific argument, I don't see the point.I'm astonished that, after all these years, the adaptationists still don't get it.
First, the mythical adaptationist is a straw man that only exists in the minds of the adaptionists. This particular straw man was easily disposed of in the original Spandrel's paper. It is only resurrected by those who haven't been paying attention
Second, the debate does not come down to "whether adaptive hypotheses are true." It comes down to whether any adaptive hypothesis is true. When speculating on mechanisms, adaptationists tend to ignore any mechanism of evolution other than natural selection That's the problem. As a general rule, they don't seriously consider the possibility that the correct explanation may not be adaptation.
It's a difference in worldviews. Pluralists tend to look at an evolutionary outcome and ask, "What mechanism of evolution caused this?" Adaptationists tend to look at the same outcome and ask, "How can this be explained by natural selection?" Adaptationists know about random genetic drift—they just don't think it's an important player when it comes to the parts of evolution that they're interested in. I think that's a bad assumption.