"Natural selection is all-powerful with respect to those visible changes that affect survival and reproduction. Natural selection is the only explanation we know for the functional beauty and apparently "designed" complexity of living things." If that's not unapologetic adaptationism, I don't know what is.
No, no, give Dawkins credit. He says "those visible changes that affect survival and reproduction". Not for all changes. And then he goes on "for the functional beauty and "apparently "designed" complexity of living things." Not for every feature of living things. What he's doing is taking an adaptationist view ... of things which actually are adaptations! This is no vice.
He does not say (a) that all features are adaptive (b) that, failing that, we can always know which features are adaptive (c) that it is always clear what a feature that is adaptive was adapted for; it is these that I take to be the faults of adaptationism.
Having said which, I'm not sure that there are any adaptationists in the sense of someone who would affirm (a) or (b) or (c): there are merely particular cases where biologists have convinced themselves of an adaptive story behind a particular feature of an organism when they are not really warranted in doing so.
What it is is a tautology: Natural selection is important in terms of adaptations, which are the result of natural selection.
It's not a tautology, adaptive features could have been, oh, let's say magicked that way by some sort of deity. Or produced by front-loaded orthogenesis. Or Lamarkian evolution.
The second sentence in the Dawkins quote is typical of the overstatement inherent in adaptationist thinking: how does he know that natural selection is the only explanation for the phenomena he mentioned?
Well, that which is functional will in fact be favored by natural selection over that which is less functional.
The tautology I described was Dawkins's saying that natural selection was important when it came to 'changes that affect survival and reproduction,' (i.e. adaptations) when the definition of adaptation presupposes that the changes have been selected for.
No it doesn't. Lamarkian evolution, as I pointed out, would also produce adaptation. So would front-loaded evolution. So would Michael Behe's invisible Tinkerer With Things.
This is why when Darwin explained his theory the response was not everyone in the world saying "You are right by definition and therefore we are unable to argue with you or suggest any alternatives."
Okay. But he only mentioned 'beauty' and 'complexity,' which aren't in and of themselves adaptations.
No, he said "functional beauty and apparently "designed" complexity"
"In a void"? Setting up a completely unrealistic hypothetical situation doesn't prove a point about natural selection, all it does is allow you to deal yourself a winning hand. You've already decided that "functional beauty and apparently designed complexity" are properties that can only be attributed to natural selection, so in your hypothetical setup, it's by definition impossible for such things to evolve.
OK, what do you think would happen in his proposed hypothetical situation? You are mercifully free of his preconceptions, let's hear your take on it.