On Our Minds: How Evolutionary Psychology is Reshaping the Nature versus Nurture Debate

Overview

There is no question more fundamental to human existence than that posed by the nature-versus-nurture debate. For much of the past century, it was widely believed that there was no essential human nature and that people could be educated or socialized to thrive in almost any imaginable culture. Today, that orthodoxy is being directly and forcefully challenged by a new science of the mind: evolutionary psychology. Like the theory of evolution itself, the implications of evolutionary psychology are provocative and ...

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On Our Minds: How Evolutionary Psychology Is Reshaping the Nature versus Nurture Debate

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Overview

There is no question more fundamental to human existence than that posed by the nature-versus-nurture debate. For much of the past century, it was widely believed that there was no essential human nature and that people could be educated or socialized to thrive in almost any imaginable culture. Today, that orthodoxy is being directly and forcefully challenged by a new science of the mind: evolutionary psychology. Like the theory of evolution itself, the implications of evolutionary psychology are provocative and unsettling. Rather than viewing the human mind as a mysterious black box or a blank slate, evolutionary psychologists see it as a physical organ that has evolved to process certain types of information in certain ways that enables us to thrive only in certain types of cultures.

In On Our Minds, Eric M. Gander examines all sides of the public debate between evolutionary psychologists and their critics. Paying particularly close attention to the popular science writings of Steven Pinker, Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Jay Gould, Gander traces the history of the controversy, succinctly summarizes the claims and theories of the evolutionary psychologists, dissects the various arguments deployed by each side, and considers in detail the far-reaching ramifications—social, cultural, and political—of this debate. Gander's lucid and highly readable account concludes that evolutionary psychology now holds the potential to answer our oldest and most profound moral and philosophical questions, fundamentally changing our self–perception as a species.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Biosocial Science - Boguslaw Pawlowski

A very good book for those unacquainted with or confused by the modern debate on human nature or with the principles of evolutionary psychology.

Choice

Gander has written a useful overview of evolutionary psychology and its implications for understanding important contemporary social issues... Gander is successful in combining sophisticated conceptual and ideological analysis with engaging writing. Both proponents and opponents of evolutionary psychology will profit from reading the book... Highly recommended.

Quarterly Review of Biology
An enjoyable and informative book.

— Thomas J. Bouchard

Choice

Gander has written a useful overview of evolutionary psychology and its implications for understanding important contemporary social issues... Gander is successful in combining sophisticated conceptual and ideological analysis with engaging writing. Both proponents and opponents of evolutionary psychology will profit from reading the book... Highly recommended.

Journal of Biosocial Science
A very good book for those unacquainted with or confused by the modern debate on human nature or with the principles of evolutionary psychology.

— Boguslaw Pawlowski

Quarterly Review of Biology - Thomas J. Bouchard

An enjoyable and informative book.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801873874
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric M. Gander is an associate professor of Public Argument in the department of communication studies at Baruch College, City University of New York.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction: "This Changes Everything" 1
Ch. 1 Stephen Jay Gould Historicizes Science 19
Ch. 2 Richard Herrnstein Stirs Up Controversy at Harvard Yard 31
Ch. 3 Edward O. Wilson Brings More Controversy to the Yard 56
Ch. 4 Richard Lewontin and His Colleagues Demur 76
Ch. 5 Nature's "Very Special Way" 97
Ch. 6 What Is the Mind? 116
Ch. 7 The Challenges of Reverse Engineering 132
Ch. 8 The Benefits of Hardwiring 155
Ch. 9 What Cultures Can the Mind Run? 174
Ch. 10 The Evolutionary Psychology of "Little House on the Prairie" 196
Conclusion: Brave New World Revisited-Again 224
Afterword: Writing on The Blank Slate 237
Notes 251
Acknowledgments 279
Index 283
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