Evolution of the evolutionarily minded

Jul 19, 2011

In the century and a half since Charles Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species, evolutionary theory has become the bedrock of modern biology, yet its application to the understanding of the human mind remains controversial. For the past 30 years, evolutionary interpretation of human cognition has been dominated by the field of evolutionary psychology. One view of this field is that human minds are composed of a list of dedicated programmes, each fashioned by natural selection to solve specific problems faced by our Stone Age ancestors, with all humans possessing the same universal architecture irrespective of geography or upbringing. However, this characterization of the human mind has been subject to criticism, in particular that some interpretations were so speculative they amounted to 'evolutionary stories'.

In an article published July 19 in the online, open access journal , a team of biologists, psychologists and philosophers from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, the University of Cincinnati in America, and the University of St Andrews in Scotland, suggest a new framework for the evolutionary analysis of the mind that draws on recent work from a variety of related subjects.

Professor Johan Bolhuis and colleagues describe how the field of had been dominated by a set of widely held assumptions — e.g., that human behavior is unlikely to be adaptive in modern environments, that is task-specific, and that there is a universal human nature. However, new findings and approaches from genetics, neuroscience and evolutionary biology now question these assumptions. For example, many human genes have been subject to recent selection in the past few thousand years, which means that humans cannot accurately be portrayed as being adapted only to a Stone Age environment. Experimental and theoretical findings also suggest that humans play an active, constructive role in co-directing their own development and evolution. How humans think and behave varies from individual to individual and place to place. Moreover, experimental evidence suggests that human minds frequently utilize very general learning rules rather than a more modular account of cognition.

Senior author Professor Kevin Laland, former president of the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association, states: "The current evolutionary psychology paradigm made sense in the 1980s, when modularity of mind was all the rage and everyone thought that evolution was slow. However, with the benefit of hindsight we can see that these assumptions were questionable, and [it] is now clear that the field needs a broader, theoretical framework. Recent developments in evolutionary & developmental biology and cognitive science provide some very exciting new avenues for research. We enter a new phase in the discipline."

Explore further: Fruit colours evolved to please picky birds, study says

More information: Bolhuis JJ, Brown GR, Richardson RC, Laland KN (2011) Darwin in Mind: New Opportunities for Evolutionary Psychology. PLoS Biol 9(7): e1001109. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001109

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Evolution: A Developmental Approach'

Jan 27, 2011

What separates humans from Chimpanzees? Is it the genetics of our population, or our different structures and behavior capabilities? To Professor Wallace Arthur it is all of these points, which is why his latest book Evolution: A ...

The changing facebook of genetic

Jan 19, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Social factors such as what we eat and where we live influence how natural selection acts on human genes, according to a research that is bringing the worlds of genetics and human sciences closer together.

Anthropologist researches evolution of Darwin’s theory

Sep 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research by University of Notre Dame anthropologist Agustin Fuentes, published recently in the European journal Anthropology Today, states that although Darwin’s basic ideas still form t ...

Recommended for you

Smarter than a first-grader?

1 hour ago

In Aesop's fable about the crow and the pitcher, a thirsty bird happens upon a vessel of water, but when he tries to drink from it, he finds the water level out of his reach. Not strong enough to knock over ...

How honey bees stay cool

13 hours ago

Honey bees, especially the young, are highly sensitive to temperature and to protect developing bees, adults work together to maintain temperatures within a narrow range. Recently published research led by ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (10) Jul 20, 2011
some interpretations were so speculative they amounted to 'evolutionary stories

Finally, someone admits to the truth. However, we can be sure the mythical story of evolution will continue unabated, no matter what evidence is brought to hand.
The application of evolutionary theory to therapy will have some interesting but unfortunate consequences.
What the psychologists are saying is that for those who don't want to believe in a Creator, evolution will produce the desired relief. Time will tell.
Deesky
4.7 / 5 (11) Jul 20, 2011
Idiot.

However, we can be sure the mythical story of evolution will continue unabated, no matter what evidence is brought to hand.

Like this evidence:
Modified genetic alphabet: Chemical evolution generates bacterial strain with artificial nucleotide in its genome
http://www.physor...ial.html
hush1
5 / 5 (2) Jul 20, 2011
@kevninrtrs

Psychologists label a form of communication which your commentary reflects a script. Every word, every sentence has an origin.

The only effective therapy is to pinpoint the origin of the words and sentences you use. They all had a beginning with you. You 'learned' all of what you write here.

The choice of words and sentences leads ultimately to a script. A script is based on an almost unimaginable simple function:

Your choice of words, sentences and script follows what causes comfort or discomfort.

The only way (we know) to realize comfort or discomfort is through mutual (social) interaction (communication).

You anticipate reaction. The contents to invoke a respond is never paramount (with you). When or if a 'learning curve' evolves within you is solely based on the comfort or discomfort levels you experience from the replies to your commentary.

The 'Creator' is a source of comfort to you.
Science is a source of comfort for me.
Yes
Let the 'evidence' and time decide
ScienceLust
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2011
Brainwashing slows learning.Poeple that don't understand the buybull are the ones that think it is real.I used to be that guy.It is easy to believe science when you no longer have the threat of being burned alive forever by Jesus.
breadhead
1 / 5 (5) Jul 25, 2011
Assumptions about assumptions, is all this article is. A view from those who think we formed by random processes. You know what they say about the word "ass-u-me"... But don't include "me", because I don't buy into this evolution nonsense. Keep saying the word, "Evolution", over and over, because it is the only evidence for it.
FrankHerbert
2.6 / 5 (10) Jul 25, 2011
Breadhead, your post history consists ENTIRELY of articles on evolution. If it bothers you so much why don't you go somewhere else? Are you afraid you aren't going to get to go on the class field trip to heaven if you don't convert enough heathens?
Truthisstrange
4 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2011
It is obvious that creationists have no argument besides pointing out that modern scientific research does not have all the answers all the time. Science does not claim to have such power. It is a growing field that has shown that, contrary to the Bible, the earth is not flat and at the center of the solar system. It has also shown the earth was not created in one day (before the sun, in one of the accounts in Genesis.