The basic components of the human mind were not solidified during the Pleistocene epoch

In Francisco José Ayala & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary debates in philosophy of biology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 243–252 (2010)
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There are a number of competing hypotheses about human evolution. For example, Homo habilis and Homo erectus could have existed together, or one could have evolved from the other, and paleontological evidence may allow us to decide between these two hypotheses (see, e.g., Spoor et al., 2007). For most who work on the biology of human behavior, there is no question that human behavior is in some large part a product of evolution. But, there are competing hypotheses in this area as well. Some claim that human behavior is produced by a collection of psychological mechanisms, for the most part, and that these mechanisms are adaptations that arose in the Pleistocene Epoch (e.g., Tooby & Cosmides, 1992; Buss, 2007). The claim is important and testable (although, more difficult to test than the above mentioned hypotheses about origins); but importantly, it is only one among many hypotheses about the evolutionary origins of human behavior. While I think that there may be components of our behavior that are best explained by appealing to processes or mechanisms that arose in the Pleistocene, I think that human behavior is a result of evolutionary processes both much older and more recent than the Pleistocene. I also maintain that much of human behavior, and the mechanisms underlying it, could still be subject to evolutionary..



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Stephen M. Downes
University of Utah

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