A Special and Onerous Concept
This chapter examines the concept of adaptation and how it is applied (and sometimes misapplied) to cooperation. It starts with George C. Williams's idea that adaptation is a “special and onerous concept that should be used only where it is really necessary,” which he articulated in Adaptation and Natural Selection. It then considers different levels of explanation that help clarify the notion of adaptation, fortuitous benefits and by-product mutualism in relation to adaptation, and the link between adaptation and natural, artificial, social, and sexual selection. It also explores how phylogeny constrains natural selection, the ways that adaptations solve specific problems found in specific environments, and how adaptation influences judgment. Finally, it analyzes the role of culture and language in adaptation and evolutionary explanations of morality.
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