[Taxacom] teleology example

Curtis Clark lists at curtisclark.org
Mon Mar 11 11:23:35 CDT 2013

On 2013-03-11 3:14 AM, Michael Heads wrote:
> As a hypothetical example, imagine a hypothetical animal species with 
> a sucker 2 cm wide, perfectly suited for catching its prey which are 2 
> cm long. By focusing only on that point in the series (as an ecologist 
> or functional morphologist) it seems like a 'wonder of nature', due to 
> the great powers of natural selection that have driven it towards the 
> best possible size. But if you look at the animal's genus (as a 
> systematist), a typical arrangement might be something like five 
> different species, with suckers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 cm wide, 
> respectively. In this perspective, looking at the species as a point 
> on a trajectory rather than a thing in itself, it appears much less 
> striking that one would have suckers 2 cm wide. (Given the presence of 
> prey 2 cm long, the predator survived, otherwise it might have gone 
> extinct). 

But aren't you (or actually John in this case) effectively saying that 
David Winter is a "wonder of nature" because he used the word "purpose"? 
Cherry-picking individuals, as John has done, would seem to fit better 
in the "neodarwinist" paradigm. I don't discount the problem of 
teleology, but I have yet to see any careful analysis (other than 
perhaps the paper you cited), but rather a bunch of hand-waving.

Curtis Clark        http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark
Biological Sciences                   +1 909 869 4140
Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona CA 91768

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