We propose a conceptual model that maps the causal pathways relating biological evolution to cultural change. It builds on conventional evolutionary theory by placing emphasis on the capacity of organisms to modify sources of natural selection in their environment (niche construction) and by broadening the evolutionary dynamic to incorporate ontogenetic and cultural processes. In this model, phenotypes have a much more active role in evolution than generally conceived. This sheds light on hominid evolution, on the evolution of culture, and on (...) altruism and cooperation. Culture amplifies the capacity of human beings to modify sources of natural selection in their environments to the point where that capacity raises some new questions about the processes of human adaptation. Key Words: adaptation; altruism; cooperation; evolutionary psychology; gene-culture coevolution; human evolution; human genetics; niche construction; sociobiology. (shrink)
In 1961, Ernst Mayr published a highly influential article on the nature of causation in biology, in which he distinguished between proximate and ultimate causes. Mayr argued that proximate causes (e.g. physiological factors) and ultimate causes (e.g. natural selection) addressed distinct ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and were not competing alternatives. That distinction retains explanatory value today. However, the adoption of Mayr’s heuristic led to the widespread belief that ontogenetic processes are irrelevant to evolutionary questions, a belief that has (1) hindered (...) progress within evolutionary biology, (2) forged divisions between evolutionary biology and adjacent disciplines and (3) obstructed several contemporary debates in biology. Here we expand on our earlier (Laland et al. in Science 334:1512–1516, 2011) argument that Mayr’s dichotomous formulation has now run its useful course, and that evolutionary biology would be better served by a concept of reciprocal causation, in which causation is perceived to cycle through biological systems recursively. We further suggest that a newer evolutionary synthesis is unlikely to emerge without this change in thinking about causation. (shrink)
John Rawls's transition from A Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism was driven by his rejection of Theory's account of stability. The key to his later account of stability is the idea of public reason. We see Rawls's account of stability as an attempt to solve a mutual assurance problem. We maintain that Rawls's solution fails because his primary assurance mechanism, in the form of public reason, is fragile. His conception of public reason relies on a condition of consensus (...) that we argue is unrealistic in modern, pluralistic democracies. After rejecting Rawls's conception of public reason, we offer an ‘indirect alternative’ that we believe is much more robust. We cite experimental evidence to back up this claim. (shrink)
This paper sets out to give sufficient detail to the notion of mental simulation to allow an appraisal of its contribution to ‘mindreading’ in the context of the ‘false-belief tasks’ used in developmental psychology. We first describe the reasoning strategy of ‘modified derivation’, which supports counterfactual reasoning. We then give an analysis of the logical structure of the standard false-belief tasks. We then show how modified derivation can be used in a hybrid strategy for mindreading in these tasks. We then (...) formulate the hypothesis that children become able (around the age of 4 years) to pass these tasks when they acquire the counterfactual reasoning ability required in this strategy. We find this to be consistent with various empirical findings. We then discuss the implications for the theory/simulation debate, meta-representation and pretence. (shrink)
We are grateful to the commentators for taking the time to respond to our article. Too many interesting and important points have been raised for us to tackle them all in this response, and so in the below we have sought to draw out the major themes. These include problems with both the term ‘ultimate causation’ and the proximate-ultimate causation dichotomy more generally, clarification of the meaning of reciprocal causation, discussion of issues related to the nature of development and phenotypic (...) plasticity and their roles in evolution, and consideration of the need for an extended evolutionary synthesis. (shrink)
In spite of its success, Neo-Darwinism is faced with major conceptual barriers to further progress, deriving directly from its metaphysical foundations. Most importantly, neo-Darwinism fails to recognize a fundamental cause of evolutionary change, “niche construction”. This failure restricts the generality of evolutionary theory, and introduces inaccuracies. It also hinders the integration of evolutionary biology with neighbouring disciplines, including ecosystem ecology, developmental biology, and the human sciences. Ecology is forced to become a divided discipline, developmental biology is stubbornly difficult to reconcile (...) with evolutionary theory, and the majority of biologists and social scientists are still unhappy with evolutionary accounts of human behaviour. The incorporation of niche construction as both a cause and a product of evolution removes these disciplinary boundaries while greatly generalizing the explanatory power of evolutionary theory. (shrink)
Byrne implies that working memory development underpins children's ability to represent counterfactuals as possibilities at 3 to 4 years of age. Recent findings suggest that (1) developments in the ability to consider alternatives to reality in children of this age are underpinned by improvements in inhibitory control, not working memory, and (2) children do not develop an understanding of counterfactuals as possibilities until mid-childhood.
Two putative functions of emotion experience ? its roles in intentional action and in social understanding ? were investigated using a group of individuals (repressors) known to have impaired anxiety experience. Repressors, low-anxious, high-anxious, and defensive high-anxious individuals were asked to give a public presentation, and then given the opportunity to avoid the presentation. Repressors were the group most likely to avoid giving the presentation, but were the least likely to give an emotional explanation for their avoidance. By contrast, they (...) were not less likely than other groups to provide negative emotional explanations of another person?s behaviour in a film clip. We concluded that: (1) repressors are impaired in self- but not in other-explanation using emotion, implying that ?simulation? is not the method used by repressors to ground their folk psychology, (2) the intentional avoidance shown by repressors is indicative of some intact first-order phenomenal anxiety experience but that they lack second-order awareness of this anxiety experience. (shrink)
For most of the history of prejudice research, negativity has been treated as its emotional and cognitive signature, a conception that continues to dominate work on the topic. By this definition, prejudice occurs when we dislike or derogate members of other groups. Recent research, however, has highlighted the need for a more nuanced and (Eagly 2004) perspective on the role of intergroup emotions and beliefs in sustaining discrimination. On the one hand, several independent lines of research have shown that unequal (...) intergroup relations are often marked by attitudinal complexity, with positive responses such as affection and admiration mingling with negative responses such as contempt and resentment. Simple antipathy is the exception rather than the rule. On the other hand, there is mounting evidence that nurturing bonds of affection between the advantaged and the disadvantaged sometimes entrenches rather than disrupts wider patterns of discrimination. Notably, prejudice reduction interventions may have ironic effects on the political attitudes of the historically disadvantaged, decreasing their perceptions of injustice and willingness to engage in collective action to transform social inequalities. (shrink)
Across a series of four experiments with 3- to 4-year-olds we demonstrate how cognitive mechanisms supporting noun learning extend to the mapping of actions to objects. In Experiment 1 the demonstration of a novel action led children to select a novel, rather than a familiar object. In Experiment 2 children exhibited long-term retention of novel action-object mappings and extended these actions to other category members. In Experiment 3 we showed that children formed an accurate sensorimotor record of the novel action. (...) In Experiment 4 we demonstrate limits on the types of actions mapped to novel objects. Overall these data suggest that certain aspects of noun mapping share common processing with action mapping and support a domain-general account of word learning. (shrink)
We defend the Simulation Theory of Mind against a challenge from the Theory Theory of Mind. The challenge is that while Simulation Theory can account for Theory of Mind errors, it cannot account for their systematic nature. There are Theory of Mind errors seen in social psychological research with adults where persons are either overly generous or overly cynical in how rational they expect others to be. There are also Theory of Mind errors observable in developmental data drawn from Maxi-type (...) false belief tests. We provide novel responses to several examples showing that Simulation Theory can answer these challenges. (shrink)
Pilot Valley, located in the eastern Basin and Range, Western Utah, USA, contains numerous shorelines and depositional remnants of Late Pleistocene Lake Bonneville. These remnants present excellent ground-penetrating radar targets due to their coherent stratification, low-clay, low-salinity, and low moisture content. Three-dimensional GPR imaging can resolve fine-scale stratigraphy of these deposits down to a few centimeters, and when combined with detailed outcrop characterization, it provides an in-depth look at the architecture of these deposits. On the western side of Pilot Valley, (...) a well-preserved late Pleistocene gravel bar records shoreline depositional processes associated with the Provo shoreline period. GPR data, measured stratigraphic sections, cores, paleontological sampling for paleoecology and radiocarbon dating, and mineralogical analysis permit a detailed reconstruction of the depositional environment of this well-exposed prograding gravel bar. Contrary to other described Bonneville shoreline deposits, calibrated radiocarbon ages ranging from 16.5 to 14.3 indicate that the bar was stable and active during an overall regressive stage of the lake, as it dropped from the Provo shoreline. Our study provides a model for an ancient pluvial lakeshore depositional environment in the Basin and Range province and suggests that stable, progradational bedforms common to the various stages of Lake Bonneville are likely not all associated with periods of shoreline stability, as is commonly assumed. The high-resolution GPR visualization demonstrates the high degree of compartmentalization possible for a potential subsurface reservoir target based on ancient shoreline sedimentary facies. (shrink)
Group selection, as advocated by Sober and Wilson, is theoretically plausible, although it remains an open question as to what extent it occurs in nature. If group selection has operated in hominids, it is likely to have selected cultural not genetic variation. A focus on niche construction helps delineate the conditions under which cooperation is favoured. Group selection may favour between-group conflict as well as within-group cooperation.
John Polkinghorne proposes that God interacts with the world by feeding information into chaotic systems. This influences the course of these systems and, since they underlie what goes on in the world, enables God to influence the world. While I applaud Polkinghorne’s insistence that God interacts physically with the world, his model for this faces several problems. Some of these he might rectify, but others look quite thorny. I also suggest an alternative God-world relation where God is the world-as-a-whole. (...) This includes many of the benefits of Polkinghorne’s central chaos idea and avoids its problems. (shrink)
The performance of 93 children aged 3 and 4 years on a battery of different counterfactual tasks was assessed. Three measures: short causal chains, location change counterfactual conditionals, and false syllogisms—but not a fourth, long causal chains—were correlated, even after controlling for age and receptive vocabulary. Children's performance on our counterfactual thinking measure was predicted by receptive vocabulary ability and inhibitory control. The role that domain general executive functions may play in 3- to 4-year olds' counterfactual thinking development is discussed.
Niche construction theory is distinctive for being explicit in recognizing environmental modification by organisms—niche construction—and its legacy—ecological inheritance—to be evolutionary processes in their own right. Humans are widely regarded as champion niche constructors, largely as a direct result of our capacity for the cultural transmission of knowledge and its expression in human behavior, engineering, and technology. This raises the question of how human ecological inheritance relates to human cultural inheritance. If NCT is to provide a conceptual framework for the human (...) sciences, then it is important that the relationship between these two legacies is clear. We suggest that cultural processes and cultural inheritance can be viewed as the primary means by which humans engage in the universal process of niche construction. (shrink)
Operating from the assumption that a primary dynamic of contemporary public argument involves the use of visual images the authors explore the argumentative possibilities of the `image events' employed by radical ecology groups. In contextualizing their discussion, the authors offer an analysis of the contemporary conditions for argumentation by describing the character and operation of public communication, social problem creation, and public opinion formation in a mass-mediated public sphere. The authors argue that image events are a form of postmodern argumentative (...) practice, a kind of oppositional argument that creates social controversy, and animates and widens possibilities for debate. They further suggest that image events are a postmodern form of argument involving acts of protest which deliver images as argumentative fragments. Employing the tools of traditional argument theory the authors describe how images are capable of offering unstated propositions and advancing indirect and incomplete claims in ways that function to block enthymemes and advance alternatives. In concluding, the authors discuss the implications of image events for our understanding of the public sphere and the possibilities for argumentation in a postmodern age. (shrink)
Our response contains a definition of niche construction, illustrations of how it changes the evolutionary process, and clarifications of our conceptual model. We argue that the introduction of niche construction into evolutionary thinking earns its keep; we illustrate this argument in our discussion of rates of genetic and cultural evolution, memes and phenogenotypes, creativity, the EEA (environment of evolutionary adaptedness), and group selection.
I survey John Leslie's Platonic thesis that if something sufficiently good possibly exists, then it could be ethically required that it actually exists—along with the pantheistic world‐picture to which this thesis leads.
J. S. Mill's role as a transitional figure between classical and egalitarian liberalism can be partly explained by developments in his often unappreciated economic views. Specifically, I argue that Mill's separation of economic production and distribution had an important effect on his political theory. Mill made two distinctions between economic production and the distribution of wealth. I argue that these separations helped lead Mill to abandon the wages-fund doctrine and adopt a more favorable view of organized labor. I also show (...) how Mill's developments impacted later philosophers, economists, and historians. Understanding the relationship between Mill's political theory and economic theory does not only matter for Mill scholarship, however. Contemporary philosophers often ignore the economic views of their predecessors. I argue that paying insufficient attention to historical political philosophers' economic ideas obscures significant motivations for their political views. (shrink)
Numerous reports have noted decreasing numbers of antibiotic approvals. To determine the context for this decline, we examined all new molecule entities (NMEs) and new biologic licenses (NBLs) approved by the FDA from 1980–2009, and compared approval rates of the 61 approved antibiotics to trends in other drug classes. We also tracked withdrawals of approved drugs and found more withdrawals for antibiotics than other drug classes. After adjusting for drugs subsequently withdrawn, the record for antibiotic innovation is less dire than (...) previously reported. We also report problems with the quality of the approved antibiotics studied. Future policies providing incentives for new antibiotic development should not be based on simple numerical targets and key provisions should ensure appropriate quality as well as quantity of antibiotic drug innovation. (shrink)
The Repugnant Conclusion served an important purpose in catalyzing and inspiring the pioneering stage of population ethics research. We believe, however, that the Repugnant Conclusion now receives too much focus. Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research, despite its importance to the fundamental accomplishments of the existing literature.
Antibiotic use triggers evolutionary and ecological responses from bacteria, leading to antibiotic resistance and harmful patient outcomes. Two complementary strategies support long-term antibiotic effectiveness: conservation of existing therapies and production of novel antibiotics. Conservation encompasses infection control, antibiotic stewardship, and other public health interventions to prevent infection, which reduce antibiotic demand. Production of new antibiotics allows physicians to replace existing drugs rendered less effective by resistance.In recent years, physicians and policymakers have raised concerns about the pipeline for new antibiotics, pointing (...) to a decline in the number of antibiotics approved since the 1980s. This trend has been attributed to high research and development costs, low reimbursement for antibiotics, and regulatory standards for review and approval. Professional societies and researchers around the world have called for renewed emphasis on antimicrobial stewardship, while also supporting antibiotic research and development through grants, changes to intellectual property laws to extend market exclusivity periods, and modification of premarket testing regulations to reduce antibiotic development time and expenses. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the terms on which John Simmons rejects all arguments for a moral obligation to obey the law and so defends “philosophical anarchism.” Although I accept his rejection of several criteria on which others might and often do insist, I criticize his reliance on the conditions of “generality” and “particularity.” In doing so, I propose an alternative to his influential conception of legitimacy.