Adaptationism and adaptive thinking in evolutionary psychology

Philosophical Psychology 25 (2):245-277 (2012)
Evolutionary psychologists attempt to infer our evolved psychology from the selection pressures present in our ancestral environments. Their use of this inference strategy?often called ?adaptive thinking??is thought to be justified by way of appeal to a rather modest form of adaptationism, according to which the mind's adaptive complexity reveals it to be a product of selection. I argue, on the contrary, that the mind's being an adaptation is only a necessary and not a sufficient condition for the validity of adaptive thinking, and that evolutionary psychology's predictive project is in fact committed to an extremely strong and highly implausible form of adaptationism. According to this ?strong adaptationism,? the macroevolutionary trajectory of a population is determined by, and therefore predictable on the basis of, the selection pressures acting upon it. Not only is this form of adaptationism prima facie highly implausible, it requires making a number of naïve and likely false assumptions concerning the nature of heritable phenotypic variation in natural populations. In particular, it assumes that phenotypic variation is inevitably small in its extent, unbiased in its direction, and copious in its quantity. Because it is unlikely that these conditions obtain as a general rule, and even more unlikely that they obtained in early human populations, I conclude that there is little reason to believe that adaptive thinking can be used to infer the current structure of our minds from evidence of past selection pressures
Keywords evolutionary psychology  adaptationism  modularity
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/09515089.2011.579416
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,316
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 21 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Paul E. Griffiths (1996). The Historical Turn in the Study of Adaptation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (4):511-532.
Paul E. Griffiths (2006). Evolutionary Psychology. In Jessica Pfeifer & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Routledge 263--268.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

53 ( #90,657 of 1,924,058 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #223,772 of 1,924,058 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.