PZ Myers! Bad Biology: How Adaptationist Thinking Corrupts Science

PZ Myers photographMonday, June 8 2015

PZ Myers! Bad Biology: How Adaptationist Thinking Corrupts Science

7 p.m….610 Woodmere Ave., Traverse City (TC Main Library)

In 1979, Gould and Lewontin published an important paper, “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme”, in which they deplored the narrow focus on seeing evolution as only a process of adaptation. They further criticized the field of evolutionary biology for perpetuating this pattern of flawed thinking.

Biologist PZ Myers bemoans that their warnings have gone unheeded in some biological sub-disciplines. He’ll be discussing a few examples of bad evolutionary biology, including the “human biodiversity” movement that is little more than a collection of pseudoscientific rationalizations for racism; evolutionary psychology, which seeks to explain modern human biology with imaginary scenarios of adaptive constraints from 10,000 years ago; and the ENCODE project, which was an obvious and overt exercise in adaptive bias applied to genomic data. A common thread among these examples is an excessive reliance on adaptationist thinking and a lack of appreciation of the diversity of mechanisms underlying our evolutionary history.

PZ Myers is an American scientist and associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Morriss. He is founder and co-author of the Pharyngula science blog, hosted on both the Science Blogs and Freethought Blogs networks. He currently works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology and cultivates an interest in cephalopods.

In 2006, the journal Nature listed his Pharyngula as the top-ranked blog by a scientist.

Myers received the American Humanist Association’s 2009 Humanist of the Year award and International Humanist Award in 2011. Asteroid 153298 Paulmyers is named in his honor.