Jerry Fodor puts some effort here into shooting down evolution, or more precisely adaptationism, the idea (in human terms) that we adapted for a stone-age environment and that’s why we have difficulties in the modern world, or (in more general terms) that natural selection is the key aspect of the evolution of species.
What I’m interested in here, though, is not the scientific issue about evolution (which I’m certainly not competent to judge) but some of the related political issues. I’d like to write something longer on this (if I could figure out exactly what to say) but the idea is that the big underlying issue is politics. Fodor is (I assume) a political liberal in U.S. terms, meaning that he supports some combination of income redistribution, feminism, gay rights, environmental protection, a nonmilitaristic foreign policy, etc. And he’s opposing adaptationism partly, I think, because it is associated with conservatives–people who want to keep traditional social and economic arrangements and support open markets, traditional religious values, minimal regulation, an active military, and so forth. The conservative arguments typically have the flavor of, “Human nature is the way it is, we can’t change it so don’t try. Clever efforts at reform end up being too clever by half and have unintended consequences.” Adaptationism fits here as a scientific basis for “human nature,” supplying what Fodor (quoting Gould) labels as “just-so stories” about why men should be the boss, why people are inherently aggressive so we need a strong defense, why family ties are important, etc. As Steven Pinker and others have noted, adaptation doesn’t need to have any particular political implications. (For example, if men are naturally killers because of our stone age evolution, this could be an argument for accepting some violence (yeah, I’m talking about you, Michael Vick), or an argument for rigorous laws to stop the violence.) And, even accepting adaption, there’s still room for lots of debate on the details.
That said, I think that Fodor is reacting to the current vogue for adaptation as an explanation/motivation for conservative ideas by what he would view as modern-day Herbert Spencers.
Let me be clear here. I’m not saying that adaptationism is some sort of hard truth that Fodor doesn’t accept because he doesn’t like it’s political implications. Rather, I’m saying that adaptation is a tricky scientific question, and I suspect that one reason for Fodor’s interest in it is that it’s been used by conservatives to support their political positions. Maybe the political dimension is one reason it’s so difficult for me to follow the discussions (for example, go here and scroll down to “Why Pigs Don’t have Wings”).