In this week’s Nature, philosopher/biologist Massimo Pigliucci reviews What Darwin Got Wrong, the book-length attack on natural selection penned by Jerry Fodor and (the unrelated) Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini:
By misusing philosophical distinctions and misinterpreting the literature on natural selection, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini make a mess of what could have been an important contribution. The authors are correct in two of their assessments. Namely that: mainstream evolutionary biology has become complacent with the nearly 70-year-old Modern Synthesis, which reconciled the original theory of natural selection with Mendelian and population genetics; and that the field needs to extend the conceptual arsenal of evolutionary theory. But in claiming that there are fundamental flaws in an edifice that has withstood a century and a half of critical examination, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini err horribly. . .
. . . Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini offer only sterile and wrongheaded criticism. Fortunately, other philosophers of science and theoretical biologists are coming together to clarify and build on the conceptual foundations of science and explore issues of its practice; this is a better way to bridge the two cultures.
The “important contribution” that F&P-P fail to make, apparently, is the contribution that Pigliucci himself is bent on making, for that “extension” of neo-Darwinism is laid out in a soon-to-appear book, Evolution: The Extended Synthesis, edited by Pigliucci and Gerd Müller.
And Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini? Well, they’ll claim that Pigliucci is just another philosopher who has failed to grasp their point.
My own review of What Darwin Got Wrong will appear in four weeks.