The elusiveness of human nature

Inquiry 33 (4):433 – 445 (1990)
Abstract
Sociobiology uses neo?Darwinism to make wide?ranging explanatory conjectures about man and society. The ?naturalism? of such an enterprise recommends it, but a thoroughgoing and Darwinian naturalism is compatible with a rejection of sociobiological conjectures. Retention of juvenile characteristics explains various human physical features and can be used to account for the playful and curiosity?driven nature of human intelligence. The malleable and hedonistic character of human sexuality is similarly explained. It has been argued (Wallace and latterly T. Nagel) that human intellectual capacity transcends what is necessary for survival and so cannot be explained by natural selection. This wrongly supposes that all characteristics explained by Darwinism are explained as specifically selected for. Fears about biologically imposed limits to human understanding misrepresent intelligence as an aggregate of specifically adjusted capacities. Conceiving human intelligence as a product of neotenization frees us from the demand to explain everything as adaptive, and if the thesis is analogical, it is but one analogical conjecture against the plethora sociobiology requires
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