ISBN-10:
0262524600
ISBN-13:
9780262524605
Pub. Date:
02/17/2006
Publisher:
MIT Press
Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature / Edition 1

Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature / Edition 1

by David J. Buller

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Overview

Was human nature designed by natural selection in the Pleistocene epoch? The dominant view in evolutionary psychology holds that it was—that our psychological adaptations were designed tens of thousands of years ago to solve problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. In this provocative and lively book, David Buller examines in detail the major claims of evolutionary psychology—the paradigm popularized by Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate and by David Buss in The Evolution of Desire—and rejects them all. This does not mean that we cannot apply evolutionary theory to human psychology, says Buller, but that the conventional wisdom in evolutionary psychology is misguided.

Evolutionary psychology employs a kind of reverse engineering to explain the evolved design of the mind, figuring out the adaptive problems our ancestors faced and then inferring the psychological adaptations that evolved to solve them. In the carefully argued central chapters of Adapting Minds, Buller scrutinizes several of evolutionary psychology's most highly publicized "discoveries," including "discriminative parental solicitude" (the idea that stepparents abuse their stepchildren at a higher rate than genetic parents abuse their biological children). Drawing on a wide range of empirical research, including his own large-scale study of child abuse, he shows that none is actually supported by the evidence.

Buller argues that our minds are not adapted to the Pleistocene, but, like the immune system, are continually adapting, over both evolutionary time and individual lifetimes. We must move beyond the reigning orthodoxy of evolutionary psychology to reach an accurate understanding of how human psychology is influenced by evolution. When we do, Buller claims, we will abandon not only the quest for human nature but the very idea of human nature itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262524605
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 02/17/2006
Series: A Bradford Book
Pages: 564
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author


David J. Buller is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University.

What People are Saying About This

Kim Sterelny

This is a superb book, wonderfully clear in thought and expression. The evolutionary psychology program represented by Pinker, Cosmides, and their allies has already been the target of impressive theoretical discussion, but this has focused mostly on the assumptions they make about evolutionary theory and human paleobiology. Buller covers this material with exemplary clarity, but the real strength of his work lies in his searching critique of the experimental case for evolutionary psychology. His is by far the best treatment of these issues I have ever read. In case after case, Buller shows that the experimental case for the existence of Darwinian algorithms is much weaker than even skeptics like me have supposed.

David Sloan Wilson

This is the wave of the future in social science research: the dissolution of disciplinary boundaries, a unified conceptual framework, and rapid feedback between theoretical and empirical inquiry.

Linnda R. Caporael

How do you tell the difference between evolutionary psychology as popular culture and as science? Buller solved the problem. He disentangles convictions born of everyday intuition from the thinking and evidence that are necissary for a scientific understanding of human cognition and behavior in an evolutionary perspective. In clear and accesible prose, he delivers a much-needed analysis of current theory and research claiming to unlock human nature. This book is essential for evolutionary psychologists, their critics, and hungry audiences.

Endorsement

This is the wave of the future in social science research: the dissolution of disciplinary boundaries, a unified conceptual framework, and rapid feedback between theoretical and empirical inquiry.

David Sloan Wilson, Binghamton University, author of Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion and the Nature of Society

From the Publisher

This is the wave of the future in social science research: the dissolution of disciplinary boundaries, a unified conceptual framework, and rapid feedback between theoretical and empirical inquiry.

David Sloan Wilson, Binghamton University, author of Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion and the Nature of Society

Elliott Sober

Buller's critique of evolutionary psychology is measured, logical, and clearly developed. It is also devastating. Buller does not seek to refute the entirety of evolutionary psychology by finding a single magic bullet. Rather, he attends to the details, finding a variety of serious problems in the different arguments that evolutionary psychologists deploy. This is philosophy of science in the trenches, and it is excellent.

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