In 2010 Jerry Fodor, a philosophy professor at Rutgers University, and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, a biophysicist, molecular biologist, and cognitive scientist at the University of Arizona, published What Darwin Got Wrong. Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini (FPP) are, by their own admission, died-in the-wool atheists and committed to a fully naturalistic account of evolutionary development. And yet, they admit that they do not know how evolution proceeds. One thing they are sure of is that Darwin’s account of natural selection cannot be it. Natural selection fails as an explanation on both scientific and philosophical grounds.
The heart of FPP’s argument is that adaptationist theories of evolution—such as Darwin’s—all make the mistake of inferring that creatures are selected for their adaptive traits from the observation that creatures with adaptive traits are selected. Such an inference brings an element of intentionality (mind) into the picture, which is inconsistent with naturalism. It would require agent selection, rather than purely natural selection.
There is also the problem of free-riders. Some traits are not selected for their adaptive quality, but come along for the ride because other traits are adaptive. But how can we ever know which traits are adaptive and which ones just came along for the ride? And if we can’t distinguish one from the other, then all explanations that trait X was selected because it helped the animal survive in its ecology are a house of cards.
This books is an important critique of Darwin’s unique contribution to evolutionary theory. And given the fact that it was written by evolutionary atheists, its critique cannot be dismissed as the whimsical musings of crazy creationists. If you are interested in a thorough critique of natural selection, this book is a must-read.