Gould and Lewontin 1979. Spandrels and adaptationist programme



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Gould and Lewontin 1979. Spandrels and adaptationist programme
The immediate utility of an organic structure often says nothing at all about the reason for its being”

Great is the power of steady misinterpretation”


Introduction:

1. What are spandrels? What is a biological example of a “spandrel”? Why did the authors use spandrels to make their initial point?


2. In a sentence, what is the “adaptationist programme”? Why do you think that this idea has been so widely accepted in the past (and even now)?
Adaptationist Programme:

3. What are the main ideas of the adaptationist programme with respect to:



4. What do the authors say about Darwin’s thoughts on this matter?


5. The authors come up with some alternatives to the adaptationist programme. Explain how these are alternatives to the adaptationist programme.

  • Genetic Drift:




  • Selection on something correlated to the trait you are interested in:




  • Phenotypic plasticity





Conclusions:

6. So you pick up a snail. It’s shell is bright yellow and very hard. These are two traits of the shell.



  • First, pretend you are Dr. Pangloss. Explain the existence of these two traits (Pangloss was a teacher of "metaphysico-theologico-cosmo-codology”, according to Voltaire).

  • Second, pretend you are a biologist who thinks that N.S. is really important (Gould and Lewontin would not like you). Explain the existence of these two traits.

  • Third, pretend you are Gould and Lewontin and explain the existence of these two traits.

7. Why is it important to talk about the adaptationist programme? Do you feel like you are a “victim” of the adaptationist programme as you look back on your schooling in biology?
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