We extend Smaldino’s approach to collaboration and social organization in cultural evolution to include cognition. By showing how recent work on emergent group-level cognition can be incorporated within Smaldino’s framework, we extend that framework’s scope to encompass collaborative memory, decision-making, and intelligent action. We argue that beneficial effects arise only in certain forms of cognitive interdependence, in surprisingly fragile conditions.
Many of the most important properties of human groups – including properties that may give one group an evolutionary advantage over another – are properly defined only at the level of group organization. Yet at present, most work on the evolution of culture has focused solely on the transmission of individual-level traits. I propose a conceptual extension of the theory of cultural evolution, particularly related to the evolutionary competition between cultural groups. The key concept in this extension is the emergent (...) group-level trait. This type of trait is characterized by the structured organization of differentiated individuals and constitutes a unit of selection that is qualitatively different from selection on groups as defined by traditional multilevel selection theory. As a corollary, I argue that the traditional focus on cooperation as the defining feature of human societies has missed an essential feature of cooperative groups. Traditional models of cooperation assume that interacting with one cooperator is equivalent to interacting with any other. However, human groups involve differential roles, meaning that receiving aid from one individual is often preferred to receiving aid from another. In this target article, I discuss the emergence and evolution of group-level traits and the implications for the theory of cultural evolution, including ramifications for the evolution of human cooperation, technology, and cultural institutions, and for the equivalency of multilevel selection and inclusive fitness approaches. (shrink)
Cognitive scientists have focused too narrowly on the acquisition of data and on the methods to extract patterns from those data. We argue that a successful science of the mind requires widening our focus to include the problems being solved by cognitive processes. Frameworks that characterize cognitive processes in terms of instrumental problem‐solving, such as those within the evolutionary social sciences, become necessary if we wish to discover more accurate descriptions of those processes.
Heyes’ book is an important contribution that rightly integrates cognitive development and cultural evolution. However, understanding the cultural evolution of cognitive gadgets requires a deeper appreciation of complexity, feedback, and self-organization than her book exhibits.
Because of the complexity of human emotional responses, invariants must be sought not in the responses themselves, but in their generating mechanisms. Lindquist et al. show that functional locationism is a theoretical dead end; their proposed mechanistic framework is a first step toward better models of emotional behavior. We caution, however, that emotions may still be quasi-natural perceptual types.
We agree that evolutionary perspectives may help us organize many divergent realms of the science of human behavior. Nevertheless, an imperative to unite all social science under an evolutionary framework risks turning off researchers who have their own theoretical perspectives that can be informed by evolutionary theory without being exclusively defined by it. We propose a few considerations for scholars interested in joining the evolutionary and social sciences.
We support the goal to integrate models of culture and cognition. However, we are not convinced that the free energy principle and Thinking Through Other Minds will be useful in achieving it. There are long traditions of modeling both cultural evolution and cognition. Demonstrating that FEP or TTOM can integrate these models will require a bit more math.
The generalizability crisis is compounded, or even partially caused, by a lack of specificity in psychological theories. Expanding the use of mechanistic models among psychologists is therefore important, but faces numerous hurdles. A cultural evolutionary approach can help guide and evaluate interventions to improve modeling efforts in psychology, such as developing standards and implementing them at the institutional level.
Human cooperation is highly unusual. We live in large groups composed mostly of non-relatives. Evolutionists have proposed a number of explanations for this pattern, including cultural group selection and extensions of more general processes such as reciprocity, kin selection, and multi-level selection acting on genes. Evolutionary processes are consilient; they affect several different empirical domains, such as patterns of behavior and the proximal drivers of that behavior. In this target article, we sketch the evidence from five domains that bear on (...) the explanatory adequacy of cultural group selection and competing hypotheses to explain human cooperation. Does cultural transmission constitute an inheritance system that can evolve in a Darwinian fashion? Are the norms that underpin institutions among the cultural traits so transmitted? Do we observe sufficient variation at the level of groups of considerable size for group selection to be a plausible process? Do human groups compete, and do success and failure in competition depend upon cultural variation? Do we observe adaptations for cooperation in humans that most plausibly arose by cultural group selection? If the answer to one of these questions is “no,” then we must look to other hypotheses. We present evidence, including quantitative evidence, that the answer to all of the questions is “yes” and argue that we must take the cultural group selection hypothesis seriously. If culturally transmitted systems of rules that limit individual deviance organize cooperation in human societies, then it is not clear that any extant alternative to cultural group selection can be a complete explanation. (shrink)
Hidden cluster problems can manifest when broad ethnic categories are used as proxies for cultural traits, especially when traits are assumed to encode cultural distances between groups. We suggest a granular understanding of cultural trait distributions within and between ethnic categories is fundamental to the interpretation of heritability estimates as well as general behavioral outcomes.
We suggest that the accounts offered by the target articles could be strengthened by acknowledging the role of group selection and cultural niche construction in shaping the evolutionary trajectory of human music. We argue that group level traits and highly variable cultural niches can explain the diversity of human song, but the target articles' accounts are insufficient to explain such diversity.
Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they produce are true, rather than merely useful? In this chapter we apply this argument to beliefs in three different domains: morality, religion, and science. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. The simplest reply to evolutionary scepticism is that the truth of beliefs (...) in a certain domain is, in fact, connected to evolutionary success, so that evolution can be expected to design systems that produce true beliefs in that domain. We call a connection between truth and evolutionary success a ‘Milvian bridge’, after the tradition which ascribes the triumph of Christianity at the battle of the Milvian bridge to the truth of Christianity. We argue that a Milvian bridge can be constructed for commonsense beliefs, and extended to scientific beliefs, but not to moral and religious beliefs. An alternative reply to evolutionary scepticism, which has been used defend moral beliefs, is to argue that their truth does not depend on their tracking some external state of affairs. We ask if this reply could be used to defend religious beliefs. (shrink)
The historian Raphael Falk has described the gene as a ‘concept in tension’ (Falk 2000) – an idea pulled this way and that by the differing demands of different kinds of biological work. Several authors have suggested that in the light of contemporary molecular biology ‘gene’ is no more than a handy term which acquires a specific meaning only in a specific scientific context in which it occurs. Hence the best way to answer the question ‘what is a gene’, and (...) the only way to provide a truly philosophical answer to that question is to outline the diversity of conceptions of the gene and the reasons for this diversity. In this essay we draw on the extensive literature in the history of biology to explain how the concept has changed over time in response to the changing demands of the biosciences . Finally, we outline some of the conceptions of the gene current today. The seeds of change are implicit in many of those current conceptions and the future of the gene concept looks set to be at as turbulent as the past. (shrink)
The etiological approach to ‘proper functions’ in biology can be strengthened by relating it to Robert Cummins' general treatment of function ascription. The proper functions of a biological trait are the functions it is assigned in a Cummins-style functional explanation of the fitness of ancestors. These functions figure in selective explanations of the trait. It is also argued that some recent etiological theories include inaccurate accounts of selective explanation in biology. Finally, a generalization of the notion of selective explanation allows (...) an analysis of the proper functions of human artifacts. (shrink)
Some ‘naturalist’ accounts of disease employ a biostatistical account of dysfunction, whilst others use a ‘selected effect’ account. Several recent authors have argued that the biostatistical account offers the best hope for a naturalist account of disease. We show that the selected effect account survives the criticisms levelled by these authors relatively unscathed, and has significant advantages over the BST. Moreover, unlike the BST, it has a strong theoretical rationale and can provide substantive reasons to decide difficult cases. This is (...) illustrated by showing how life-history theory clarifies the status of so-called diseases of old age. The selected effect account of function deserves a more prominent place in the philosophy of medicine than it currently occupies. _1_ Introduction _2_ Biostatistical and Selected Effect Accounts of Function _3_ Objections to the Selected Effect Account _3.1_ Boorse _3.2_ Kingma _3.3_ Hausman _3.4_ Murphy and Woolfolk _4_ Problems for the Biostatistical Account _4.1_ Schwartz _5_ Analysis versus Explication _6_ Explicating Dysfunction: Life History Theory and Senescence _7_ Conclusion. (shrink)
Paul E. Meehl and B. F. Skinner, two of the foremost psychological theorists of the 20th century, overlapped at the University of Minnesota in the early 1940s when Skinner was a faculty member and Meehl was a graduate student. Though Skinner was well aware of, and influenced by, early 20th century physiology, he eschewed reductionism, developing his analysis of behavior without reference to concepts at another level of analysis. Meehl's theoretical approach transcended levels of analysis, drawing upon data and (...) concepts from genetics, neuroscience, and psychology. In this paper the functional components of Meehl's (1990) "Toward an Integrated Theory of Schizotaxia, Schizotypy, and Schizophrenia" paper are re-formulated substituting autism as the condition of interest. Skinner's and Meehl's theoretical frameworks are integrated with recent findings in genetics and neuroscience in an attempt to better understand the reasons why Intensive Early Behavior Therapy (IEBT) provided to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders produces enduring improvements in social, language, and cognitive functioning. (shrink)
In behavioral ecology some authors regard the innateness concept as irretrievably confused whilst others take it to refer to adaptations. In cognitive psychology, however, whether traits are 'innate' is regarded as a significant question and is often the subject of heated debate. Several philosophers have tried to define innateness with the intention of making sense of its use in cognitive psychology. In contrast, I argue that the concept is irretrievably confused. The vernacular innateness concept represents a key aspect of 'folkbiology', (...) namely, the explanatory strategy that psychologists and cognitive anthropologists have labeled 'folk essentialism'. Folk essentialism is inimical to Darwinism, and both Darwin and the founders of the modern synthesis struggled to overcome this way of thinking about living systems. Because the vernacular concept of innateness is part of folkbiology, attempts to define it more adequately are unlikely to succeed, making it preferable to introduce new, neutral terms for the various, related notions that are needed to understand cognitive development. (shrink)
Several authors have argued that causes differ in the degree to which they are ‘specific’ to their effects. Woodward has used this idea to enrich his influential interventionist theory of causal explanation. Here we propose a way to measure causal specificity using tools from information theory. We show that the specificity of a causal variable is not well-defined without a probability distribution over the states of that variable. We demonstrate the tractability and interest of our proposed measure by measuring the (...) specificity of coding DNA and other factors in a simple model of the production of mRNA. (shrink)
The Contradictions of Jazz examines four pairs of opposites in jazz-freedom and responsibility, creativity and tradition, individualism and interconnectedness, and assertion and openness-and explores their position and presence in jazz to create a humanistic and existential view of the genre.
The emerging discipline of evolutionary developmental biology has opened up many new lines of investigation into morphological evolution. Here I explore how two of the core theoretical concepts in ‘evo-devo’ – modularity and homology – apply to evolutionary psychology. I distinguish three sorts of module – developmental, functional and mental modules and argue that mental modules need only be ‘virtual’ functional modules. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that separate mental modules are solutions to separate evolutionary problems. I argue that the structure (...) of developmental modules in an organism helps determine what counts as a separate evolutionary problem for that organism. I suggest that homology as an organizing principle for research in evolutionary psychology, has been severely neglected in favor of analogy (adaptive function). I consider some arguments suggesting that determining homology is less epistemically demanding than determining adaptive function and argue that psychological categories defined by homology are, in fact, more suitable objects of psychological – and particularly neuropsychological – investigation than categories defined by analogy. (shrink)
Developmental systems theory is an attempt to sum up the ideas of a research tradition in developmental psychobiology that goes back at least to Daniel Lehrman’s work in the 1950s. It yields a representation of evolution that is quite capable of accommodating the traditional themes of natural selection and also the new results that are emerging from evolutionary developmental biology. But it adds something else - a framework for thinking about development and evolution without the distorting dichotomization of biological processes (...) into gene and non-gene and the vestiges of the ‘black-boxing’ of developmental processes in the modern synthesis, such as the asymmetric use of the concept of information. Phenomena that are marginalized in current gene-centric conceptions, such as extra-genetic inheritance, niche construction and phenotypic plasticity are placed center stage. (shrink)
We outline three very different concepts of the gene—instrumental, nominal, and postgenomic. The instrumental gene has a critical role in the construction and interpretation of experiments in which the relationship between genotype and phenotype is explored via hybridization between organisms or directly between nucleic acid molecules. It also plays an important theoretical role in the foundations of disciplines such as quantitative genetics and population genetics. The nominal gene is a critical practical tool, allowing stable communication between bioscientists in a wide (...) range of fields grounded in well-defined sequences of nucleotides, but this concept does not embody major theoretical insights into genome structure or function. The post-genomic gene embodies the continuing project of understanding how genome structure supports genome function, but with a deflationary picture of the gene as a structural unit. This final concept of the gene poses a significant challenge to conventional assumptions about the relationship between genome structure and function, and between genotype and phenotype. (shrink)
In earlier work I have claimed that emotion and some emotions are not `natural kinds'. Here I clarify what I mean by `natural kind', suggest a new and more accurate term, and discuss the objection that emotion and emotions are not descriptive categories at all, but fundamentally normative categories.
It is unreasonable to assume that our pre-scientific emotion vocabulary embodies all and only those distinctions required for a scientific psychology of emotion. The psychoevolutionary approach to emotion yields an alternative classification of certain emotion phenomena. The new categories are based on a set of evolved adaptive responses, or affect-programs, which are found in all cultures. The triggering of these responses involves a modular system of stimulus appraisal, whose evoluations may conflict with those of higher-level cognitive processes. Whilst the structure (...) of the adaptive responses is innate, the contents of the system which triggers them are largely learnt. The circuits subserving the adaptive responses are probably located in the limbic system. This theory of emotion is directly applicable only to a small sub-domain of the traditional realm of emotion. It can be used, however, to explain the grouping of various other phenomena under the heading of emotion, and to explain various characteristic failings of the pre-scientific conception of emotion. (shrink)
I defend the view that many biological categories are defined by homology against a series of arguments designed to show that all biological categories are defined, at least in part, by selected function. I show that categories of homology are `abnormality inclusive'—something often alleged to be unique to selected function categories. I show that classifications by selected function are logically dependent on classifications by homology, but not vice-versa. Finally, I reject the view that biologists must use considerations of selected function (...) to abstract away from variation and pathology to form a canonical description of a class of biological systems. (shrink)
Kenneth C. Schaffner's paper is an important contribution to the literature on behavioral genetics and on genetics in general. Schaffner has a long record of injecting real molecular biology into philosophical discussions of genetics. His treatments of the reduction of Mendelian to molecular genetics first drew philosophical attention to the problems of detail that have fuelled both anti-reductionism and more sophisticated models of theory reduction. An injection of molecular detail into discussions of genetics is particularly necessary at the present time, (...) when so many philosophers seem happy to discuss the philosophical and ethical implications of molecular biology using gene concepts derived from evolutionary biology ). Schaffner has long advocated the view that the philosophy of biology should be more than the philosophy of evolution. This paper shows how radically a picture of gene action derived from molecular biology undercuts the popular picture associated with a more evolutionary view of genes as units of heredity or as ‘difference-makers’ mediated by the ‘black box’ of development. (shrink)
A number of philosophers and ‘evolutionary psychologists’ have argued that attacks on adaptationism in contemporary biology are misguided. These thinkers identify anti-adaptationism with advocacy of non-adaptive modes of explanation. They overlook the influence of anti-adaptationism in the development of more rigorous forms of adaptive explanation. Many biologists who reject adaptationism do not reject Darwinism. Instead, they have pioneered the contemporary historical turn in the study of adaptation. One real issue which remains unresolved amongst these methodological advances is the nature of (...) ‘phylogenetic inertia’. To what extent is an adaptive explanation needed for the persistence of a trait as well as its origin? (shrink)
Genetic determinism is the idea that many significant human characteristics are rendered inevitable by the presence of certain genes. The psychologist Susan Oyama has famously compared arguing against genetic determinism to battling the undead. Oyama suggests that genetic determinism is inherent in the way we currently represent genes and what genes do. As long as genes are represented as containing information about how the organism will develop, they will continue to be regarded as determining causes no matter how much evidence (...) exists to the contrary. Philip Kitcher has strongly disputed Oyama’s diagnosis, arguing that the conventional ‘interactionist’ perspective on development is the correct framework for understanding the role of the genes in development. While acknowledging the legitimacy of many of Kitcher’s observations, I believe that Oyama’s view is substantially correct. In this paper I provide several lines of support for support the Oyama diagnosis. (shrink)