Re: Adapted Mind--where memetics fits in knowledge space 2nd try

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 30 Jan 2004 - 05:26:01 GMT

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    At 02:37 PM 29/01/04 +0000, Douglas wrote:


    >searching the book on google, one is struck by the number of instances in
    >which the book is associated with anthropology courses in North American
    >colleges, seeming to contradict the vitriol of the passage cited.

    It has been 12 years. My casual observation of anthropology is that some people in that field are more receptive to evolutionary psychology than those in other areas of social science. John Tooby for example is a professor of anthropology at UCSB as is Napoleon Chagnon. Chagnon's frames his work (at least recently) in terms that are compatible with EP or its predecessor term sociobiology. I might add much to the distress of others in the field. He has been subject to personal attacks on the same scale as EO Wilson. (Wilson once had a bucket of water dumped on him when lecturing--with the clever declaration of the assailant that Wilson was
    "all wet.")

    Robert Trivers's contributions are of major import to EP. His background is biology, but he is now in the Anthropology Dept of Rutgers. He was also the thesis advisor to EP luminary Leda Cosmides.

    There is a lot of opposition in the social sciences to an integrated view where the social sciences mesh into the rest of science. I suspect that that view will be displaced, or if not, other areas of science will encroach and eventually take the subject matter away from social "science."

    It is certainly interesting to watch.

    >Mauss was a sociologist/anthropologist. His concept of the "total social
    >fact" included the biological.
    >"The central premise of The Adapted Mind is that there is a universal
    >human nature, but that this universality exists primarily at the level of
    >evolved psychological mechanisms, not of expressed cultural behaviors....
    >A second premise is that these evolved psychological mechanisms are
    >adaptations, constructed by natural selection over evolutionary time.
    >A third assumption made by most of the contributors is that the evolved
    >structure of the human mind is adapted to the way of life of Pleistocene
    >hunter-gatherers, and not necessarily to our modern circumstances."
    >I can see some evidence in my work in the anthropology and evolution of
    >legal doctrine that suggests the first premise, at least on a collective
    >rather than individual level. But it necessary that we all become

    Sorry, I don't understand the last sentence.

    >There would seem to be a problem reconciling the second and third premises.

    Hmm. I don't see any incompatibility. Perhaps you could explain?

    Keith Henson\

    PS. A friend of mine who is a professional writer commenting on these subjects:

         "I have always been the sort of person who would rather work thing things out for myself, rather than studying up on it.

         "It was about 35 years ago that I realized that to understand strange human behavior, you had to look at it from the perspective of a hunter-gatherer. That was something that we humans had time to get really good at, and we took over the planet doing it. We haven't had the time to get used to other life styles.

         "The approach works. All sorts of things suddenly become clear."

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