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Panglossianism

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Some accounts of adaptation are criticized as not being much different from Panglossianism, the doctrine that this is the best of all possible worlds. Such hyperadaptationism is common among creationists, who often attempt to show that various examples of suboptimal design are, in some way, the best possible designs. Hyperadaptationism is also sometimes attributed to modern evolutionary biology; Stephen Jay Gould has long criticized it as Panglossianism, rightly or wrongly.

Here is the type specimen of Panglossianism:

Pangloss taught metaphysico-theologico-cosmo-codology. He could prove wonderfully that there is no effect without cause and that, in this best of all possible worlds, His Lordship the Baron's castle was the most beautiful of castles and Madam the best of all possible baronesses.

"It is demonstrably true," he would say, "that things cannot be other than as they are. For, everything having been made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose. Observe how noses were made to bear spectacles, and so we have spectacles. Legs are evidently devised to be clad in breeches, and breeches we have. Stones were formed in such a way that they can be hewn and made into castles, and so His Lordship has a very beautiful castle. The greatest baron in the province must be the best lodged. And since pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all the year round. Consequently, those who have argued that all is well have been talking nonsense. They should have said that all is for the best."

From Voltaire, Candide. trans. Roger Pearson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990)

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