Do Clay Crystals and Rocks Have Functions? Selected Effects Functions, the Service Criterion, and the Twofold Character of Function
This chapter discusses the type of counterexample to the selected effects theory of function classically epitomized by Mark Bedau’s case of clay crystals, and more recently illustrated by Justin Garson’s case of rocks differentially eroding on a beach. These counterexamples purportedly show the excessive liberality of the selected effects theory by identifying items that are subject to selection processes, but do not seem to bear functions. I review three broad lines of responses to such counterexamples: the bite the bullet response, which contends that it is perfectly fine to ascribe functions to clay crystals, rocks, and the like; the population response, which argues that clay crystals, rocks, and the like are excluded from the selected effects theory because they do not form populations of an appropriate type; and the service response, which maintains that clay crystals, rocks, and the like are excluded from the selected effects theory because they are not selected for contributions to complexly organized systems. I argue that the service response is the most appropriate one. By attending to what I call the systemic dimension of function, this response yields better unity between the selected effects theory and the non-selected-effects uses of the concept of function that occur in many biological subdisciplines.
Dussault, A. C. (2023). Do clay crystals and rocks have functions? Selected effects functions, the service criterion, and the twofold character of function. Dans J. Gayon, A. De Ricqlès et A. C. Dussault (dir.), Functions: From organisms to artefacts (vol. 32, p. 135-158). Cham : Springer International Publishing.