Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1981

Source

Thompson N.S. (1981) Toward a Falsifiable Theory of Evolution. In: Bateson P.P.G., Klopfer P.H. (eds) Perspectives in Ethology. Springer, Boston, MA.

Abstract

Over the last two decades, evolutionary theory has been under attack from critics who argue that the “survival of the fittest” is a tautology. The criticism is important because tautological statements cannot be verified empirically. A similar tautology problem existed in the schools of American behaviorism and may have been the cause of their record of meager significant accomplishment. A theoretical program is offered to deal with the tautology in evolutionary theory. The program entails making independent definitions of adaptation and natural selection and then checking to see if natural selection has always begotten adaptation, as the Darwinian theory supposes. A brief review of some well-known biological phenomena reveals that natural selection has often been the cause of phenomena other than adaptation and adaptation has come about through events other than natural selection. The healthy response of a science to such a discovery would be to begin to study the factors other than natural selection which have led to adaptation and to study the consequences of natural selection other than adaptation. Ethology is expected to play a key role in such a response because of its traditional concern with the relationship between comparative descriptive analysis and functional explanation.

Rights and Permissions

Copyright © 1981, Plenum Press, New York

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