Meaningful Words Without Sense, & Other Revolutions


Richard Marshall interviews Jerry Fodor in 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: Your recent incursion into the Darwin wars caught some people by surprise but really it shouldn’t have. You basically were arguing the same case against a version of natural selection that you used against behaviourism weren’t you? The pesky intension/intention distinction was something you realised lay at the heart of a hidden piece of fallacious thinking in the Darwinian camp and although disguised it was a potentially devastating element. Can you say why the mechanism for natural selection used by Darwinists is flawed?

JF: That’s easy. Darwinism doesn’t have a mechanism for natural selection; in particular, the `theory of natural selection’ doesn’t provide one. That was the main theme of Piatelli and my book What Darwin Got Wrong. Darwin, like Skinner, is a `black box’ theorist; both insist that the non-random variables in explanations of biological traits are environmental .In consequence, Darwin is left with the hopeless problem, of (which the `linkage’ of traits is a parade example) how environmental variables could account for the effects of a creatures internal organisation in determining its phenotype. Hence the familiar loose talk about `Mother Nature’s role in guiding trait selection. Dawkins (among others) keeps assuring us that such talk is metaphorical. But he never does explain how to cash the metaphor. Skinner’s problem is exactly the same, except he’s interested not in innate phenotypes but in acquired `behavioral repertoires’.