Phil/Psych 447, Phil 673

Seminar in Cognitive Science

Week 6: Evolution

Key Ideas

Explanation pattern: Variation + selection + heredity -> Evolution

Evolutionary error tendencies:

  1. Everything is adaptive.
  2. Neglect of alternative explanations: cultural learning, genetic drift, side effect (byproduct, spandrel, exaptation), epigenetic.
  3. Just so storytelling.
  4. Evolution is progressive and optimal.
  5. Evolution implies morality, justifying ideology.
  6. Overgeneralization: memes.
  7. Individual vs. group selection.

Hypotheses about the origins of consciousness:

  1. Non-existent so not evolved.
  2. Adaptive: contributions to action, problem solving, learning, social interaction.
  3. Side effect: emergent result of other adaptations, such as brain size, binding, attention.
  4. Cultural development: Jaynes
  5. Random drift, epigenetic.

How to tell if a behavior is innate:

  1. Culturally universal?
  2. Specific brain areas?
  3. Precursors in other animals?
  4. Adaptive during evolutionary period?
  5. Not a side effect of other behavors?

Discussion Questions

1. Why do people kiss? Compare adaptationist with alternative explanations.

2. What are examples of human characteristics best explained as adaptations, side effects, random, or cultural artifacts?

3. Did consciousness evolve? Is it adaptive?

4. How is consciousness socially useful?

5. What are the differences between genes and memes?

6. What animals have core consciousness?

7. What animals have self consciousness?

8. How crucial is language for consciousness?


Philosophy of evolutionary psychology

Evolution of human intelligence

Why do people kiss?

Why memes are a bad idea

Phil/Psych 447

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Oct. 14, 2013