Evolutionary psychology, adaptation and design

In P. Huneman & M. Silberstein (eds.), Handbook of Evolutionary Thinking in the Sciences. Springer. pp. 659-673 (2014)
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I argue that Evolutionary Psychologists’ notion of adaptationism is closest to what Peter Godfrey-Smith (2001) calls explanatory adaptationism and as a result, is not a good organizing principle for research in the biology of human behavior. I also argue that adopting an alternate notion of adaptationism presents much more explanatory resources to the biology of human behavior. I proceed by introducing Evolutionary Psychology and giving some examples of alternative approaches to the biological explanation of human behavior. Next I characterize adaptation and explain the range of biological phenomena that can count as adaptations. I go onto introduce the range of adaptationist views that have been distinguished by philosophers of biology and lay out explanatory adaptationism in detail.

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Stephen M. Downes
University of Utah


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