How to study adaptation (and why to do it that way)

Prof Mark E Olson, from the Institute of Biology, National University of Mexico, will present the Department of Biological Sciences seminar with a talk entitled, "How to study adaptation (and why to do it that way)". 

Abstract: The study of adaptation, in organisms from plants to human beings, is frequently criticized as being filled with flimsy "just-so stories," the fallacy of circular reasoning, and even to be non-scientific because it doesn't fit a Popperian, deductive notion of science. I I take on these criticisms by examining the structure of a situation in which adapation is an well-accepted and well-supported explanation. I show that just-so stories are usually legitimate hypotheses that are at a preliminary stage and lack many layers of direct evidence. I show that, like most scientific explanations, adaptationist reasoning is never entirely deductive and instead involves abduction or Bayesianism, in which some circular-sounding loops of reasoning are always present. With these reasoning structures in mind, I show the way to a healthier view of “circularity” in evolutionary biology and why integration across the comparative, populational, and optimality approaches is necessary.

Bio: 

Mark Olson is an evolutionary biologist at Mexico's national university, where he works on the evolution of plant functional diversity. He manages a botanical garden, the International Moringa Germplasm Collection, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. 

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 - 13:00
Venue: 

Pearson Bio Lecture Theatre, University Avenue, Upper Campus, UCT

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