Evolution and Learning

Author: Bruce H. Weber
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 9780262232296
Format: PDF, ePub
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Essays on the contributions to historical and contemporary evolutionary theory of the Baldwin effect, which postulates the effects of learned behaviors on evolutionary change.

Cooperation and Its Evolution

Author: Kim Sterelny
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262018535
Format: PDF, Kindle
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Essays from a range of disciplinary perspectives show the central role that cooperation plays in structuring our world. This collection reports on the latest research on an increasingly pivotal issue for evolutionary biology: cooperation. The chapters are written from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and utilize research tools that range from empirical survey to conceptual modeling, reflecting the rich diversity of work in the field. They explore a wide taxonomic range, concentrating on bacteria, social insects, and, especially, humans. Part I ("Agents and Environments") investigates the connections of social cooperation in social organizations to the conditions that make cooperation profitable and stable, focusing on the interactions of agent, population, and environment. Part II ("Agents and Mechanisms") focuses on how proximate mechanisms emerge and operate in the evolutionary process and how they shape evolutionary trajectories. Throughout the book, certain themes emerge that demonstrate the ubiquity of questions regarding cooperation in evolutionary biology: the generation and division of the profits of cooperation; transitions in individuality; levels of selection, from gene to organism; and the "human cooperation explosion" that makes our own social behavior particularly puzzling from an evolutionary perspective.

Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology

Author: Richardson
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262261111
Format: PDF, Kindle
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Human beings, like other organisms, are the products of evolution. Like other organisms, we exhibit traits that are the product of natural selection. Our psychological capacities are evolved traits as much as are our gait and posture. This much few would dispute. Evolutionary psychology goes further than this, claiming that our psychological traits -- including a wide variety of traits, from mate preference and jealousy to language and reason -- can be understood as specific adaptations to ancestral Pleistocene conditions. In Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology, Robert Richardson takes a critical look at evolutionary psychology by subjecting its ambitious and controversial claims to the same sorts of methodological and evidential constraints that are broadly accepted within evolutionary biology.The claims of evolutionary psychology may pass muster as psychology; but what are their evolutionary credentials? Richardson considers three ways adaptive hypotheses can be evaluated, using examples from the biological literature to illustrate what sorts of evidence and methodology would be necessary to establish specific evolutionary and adaptive explanations of human psychological traits. He shows that existing explanations within evolutionary psychology fall woefully short of accepted biological standards. The theories offered by evolutionary psychologists may identify traits that are, or were, beneficial to humans. But gauged by biological standards, there is inadequate evidence: evolutionary psychologists are largely silent on the evolutionary evidence relevant to assessing their claims, including such matters as variation in ancestral populations, heritability, and the advantage offered to our ancestors. As evolutionary claims they are unsubstantiated. Evolutionary psychology, Richardson concludes, may offer a program of research, but it lacks the kind of evidence that is generally expected within evolutionary biology. It is speculation rather than sound science -- and we should treat its claims with skepticism.

A Mark of the Mental

Author: Karen Neander
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262036142
Format: PDF, Mobi
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In A Mark of the Mental, Karen Neander considers the representational power of mental states -- described by the cognitive scientist Zenon Pylyshyn as the "second hardest puzzle" of philosophy of mind (the first being consciousness). The puzzle at the heart of the book is sometimes called "the problem of mental content," "Brentano's problem," or "the problem of intentionality." Its motivating mystery is how neurobiological states can have semantic properties such as meaning or reference. Neander proposes a naturalistic account for sensory-perceptual (nonconceptual) representations. Neander draws on insights from state-space semantics (which appeals to relations of second-order similarity between representing and represented domains), causal theories of reference (which claim the reference relation is a causal one), and teleosemantic theories (which claim that semantic norms, at their simplest, depend on functional norms). She proposes and defends an intuitive, theoretically well-motivated but highly controversial thesis: sensory-perceptual systems have the function to produce inner state changes that are the analogs of as well as caused by their referents. Neander shows that the three main elements -- functions, causal-information relations, and relations of second-order similarity -- complement rather than conflict with each other. After developing an argument for teleosemantics by examining the nature of explanation in the mind and brain sciences, she develops a theory of mental content and defends it against six main content-determinacy challenges to a naturalized semantics.

Rock Bone and Ruin

Author: Adrian Currie
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 0262037262
Format: PDF, ePub, Docs
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"The Earth's deep past is a fascinating place to visit, both disturbingly alien and hauntingly familiar. In its life, the Earth has frozen solid, supported enormous animals (themselves sporting enormous fleas!), accommodated a diversity of cultures, and a diversity of ways-of-living. Rock, Bone & Ruin asks how much we can know about the deep past. To answer this, we need to understand the resources at our disposal: how do historical scientists like paleontologists, archaeologists and geologists learn about prehistory? Most people think of simple relationships--such as that between a fossilized bone and its long-dead owner--when they consider historical evidence. However, I argue that such scientists are best understood as 'methodological omnivores': they are creative, opportunistic and use a variety of different strategies and techniques. The reasoning used by historical scientists is much more diverse and complex than we have previously realized. And this supports optimism about our capacity to discover the deep past: our knowledge of it shall continue to grow. Along the way, we critically examine philosophical and scientific reflection on the relationship between the past and the present, the nature of evidence, contingency, scientific progress and scientific. Further, I provide suggestions about the value of knowledge about the past--including how it can inform us in the present and into the future--and how such sciences are best supported. The argument draws on fascinating examples from across paleontology, geology and archaeology"--

The Native Mind and the Cultural Construction of Nature

Author: Scott Atran
Publisher: Mit Press
ISBN:
Format: PDF, Docs
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An analysis of the cognitive consequences of diminished contact with nature examines the relationship between how people think about the natural world and how they act on it, and how these are affected by cultural differences.