Wonderful Mind: Convergentism and the Crusade Against Evolutionary Progress

Journal of the Philosophy of History 17 (1):77-103 (2023)
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Stephen Jay Gould argued that the shape of animal life as we know it is a radically contingent accident of history determined more by fortune than comparative functional merit. Acknowledging the formative role of contingency in macroevolution is crucial, Gould believed, to vanquishing the lingering vestiges of progressivism that continue to buttress anthropocentric views of life. Gould’s contingency thesis has come under fire in recent years by proponents of convergent evolution who argue that not only is replication ubiquitous in evolution, but also that it indicates an evolutionary process charging inexorably toward ever more complex and human-like outcomes. We argue here that although convergentist approaches are widely seen as inimical to the Gouldian view of life, in fact the two are indispensable allies in the anti-progressivist crusade, particularly in relation to the evolution of mind. We illustrate this by examining the progressivist foundations of comparative cognition science and the ongoing resistance to attributions of convergent minds.



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Irina Mikhalevich
Rochester Institute of Technology

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Social norms and superorganisms.Rachell Powell - 2023 - Biology and Philosophy 38 (3):1-25.

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