David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):529-546 (2007)
Evolutionary psychologists argue that selective pressures in our ancestral environment yield a highly specialized set of modular cognitive capacities. However, recent papers in developmental psychology and neuroscience claim that evolutionary accounts of modularity are incompatible with the flexibility and plasticity of the developing brain. Instead, they propose cortical and neuronal brain structures are fixed through interactions with our developmental environment. Buller and Gray Hardcastle contend that evolutionary accounts of cognitive development are unacceptably rigid in light of evidence of cortical plasticity. The developing structure of the brain is both too random and too sensitive to external stimuli to be the product of a fixed genetic mechanism. They also claim that the complexity of the human brain cannot be explained in terms of our meager genetic endowment. There simply are not enough genes to program the intricate neuronal structures that are essential to cognition. I argue that neither of these arguments are persuasive. Small numbers of genes can function to determine diverse phenotypical outcomes through evolutionarily selected developmental systems. Similarly, theories of modularity do not rule out the possibility that innate cognitive systems exploit environmental regularities to guide the developing structure of the brain. Consequently, the anti-adaptionist consequences of these positions should be rejected
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References found in this work BETA
Steven Pinker (1995). The Language Instinct. Harper Perennial.
Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides & John Tooby (eds.) (1992). The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. Oxford University Press.
David J. Buller (2005). Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature. MIT Press.
Alan M. Leslie (1994). Pretending and Believing: Issues in the Theory of ToMM. Cognition 50 (1-3):211-238.
Paul Griffiths (2002). What is Innateness? The Monist 85 (1):70-85.
Citations of this work BETA
Kathryn S. Plaisance, Thomas A. C. Reydon & Mehmet Elgin (2012). Why the (Gene) Counting Argument Fails in the Massive Modularity Debate: The Need for Understanding Gene Concepts and Genotype-Phenotype Relationships. Philosophical Psychology 25 (6):873-892.
Catherine Driscoll (2014). Constructive Criticism: An Evaluation of Buller and Hardcastle's Genetic and Neuroscientific Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology. Philosophical Psychology 27 (6):907-925.
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