Coyne (sort of) discovers non-adaptive explanations.

I enjoyed Jerry Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True (though I don’t care for the title — Why Evolution is a Scientific Fact would have been much more accurate). The one complaint I had was that Coyne is a serious Darwinian (up to an including calling evolution “Darwinism”). That is, he interprets pretty much everything he discusses in the book in terms of natural selection and adaptation. Many evolutionary biologists, myself included, take a much more pluralistic view in which selection is one factor but not necessarily the dominant one in shaping any particular characteristic.

Anyway, it seems Coyne may have taken one small step away from absolute adaptationism in his post “Redundant parts“. (I have to admit, the question he posed about “superfluous” veins, “Maybe we can live without them, but couldn’t they have evolved as ‘backups’—in case something went wrong with a partner vessel?” is the kind of thing I would expect one of my introductory evolution students to ask at the beginning of the course).


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