Adapting Minds

Adapting Minds : Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature

3.64 (71 ratings by Goodreads)
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Was human nature designed by natural selection in the Pleistocene epoch? The dominant view in evolutionary psychology holds that it was-that our psychological adaptations were designed tens of thousands of years ago to solve problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. In this provocative and lively book, David Buller examines in detail the major claims of evolutionary psychology-the paradigm popularized by Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate and by David Buss in The Evolution of Desire-and rejects them all. This does not mean that we cannot apply evolutionary theory to human psychology, says Buller, but that the conventional wisdom in evolutionary psychology is misguided.

Evolutionary psychology employs a kind of reverse engineering to explain the evolved design of the mind, figuring out the adaptive problems our ancestors faced and then inferring the psychological adaptations that evolved to solve them. In the carefully argued central chapters of Adapting Minds, Buller scrutinizes several of evolutionary psychology's most highly publicized "discoveries," including "discriminative parental solicitude" (the idea that stepparents abuse their stepchildren at a higher rate than genetic parents abuse their biological children). Drawing on a wide range of empirical research, including his own large-scale study of child abuse, he shows that none is actually supported by the evidence.

Buller argues that our minds are not adapted to the Pleistocene, but, like the immune system, are continually adapting, over both evolutionary time and individual lifetimes. We must move beyond the reigning orthodoxy of evolutionary psychology to reach an accurate understanding of how human psychology is influenced by evolution. When we do, Buller claims, we will abandon not only the quest for human nature but the very idea of human nature itself.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 564 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 32mm | 748g
  • Bradford Books
  • Massachusetts, United States
  • English
  • 0262524600
  • 9780262524605
  • 687,052

Review quote

[Buller] hopes that Adapting Minds can clear the way for some actual science about how evolution equips us to have psychologies. Anyone with a serious interest in evolution, psychology, or humanity should read it to free their mind for that task.

-The New Scientist [H]is book, Adapting Minds from MIT Press, is the most persuasive critique of evo psych I have encountered... After Adapting Minds it is impossible to ever again think that human behavior is the Stone Age artifact that evolutionary psychology claims.

-Wall Street Journal ...Adapting Minds is destined to become required reading among evolutionary psychology's detractors. But, despite its flaws, it will be read with interest by evolutionary psychologists too. Buller provides a useful overview of the filed and of the current debates... Buller enables evolutionary psychologist to get back to arguing about the science.

-Nature [T]he author's restraint and generous stance ensure that evolutionary psychologists have to take Adapting Minds seriously.... I highly commend [Buller] for having written an outstanding book. It sets the standard for the continuing debates on evolutionary psychology.

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About David J. Buller

David J. Buller is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University.
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Rating details

71 ratings
3.64 out of 5 stars
5 20% (14)
4 42% (30)
3 25% (18)
2 8% (6)
1 4% (3)
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