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The Innate MindStructure and Contents$
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Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence, and Stephen Stich

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179675

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195179675.001.0001

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Strong versus Weak Adaptationism in Cognition and Language

Strong versus Weak Adaptationism in Cognition and Language

Chapter:
(p.141) 9 Strong versus Weak Adaptationism in Cognition and Language
Source:
The Innate Mind
Author(s):

Scott Atran (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195179675.003.0009

This chapter focuses on the issue of methodological usefulness of a strong versus weak adaptationist position in attempting to gain significant insight and to make scientifically important advances and discoveries in human cognition. Strong adaptationism holds that complex design is best explained by task-specific adaptations to particular ancestral environments; whereas weak adaptationism claims that we should not assume that complex design is the result of such narrowly determined task- or niche-specific evolutionary pressures in the absence of substantial corroborating evidence. It argues that in cases of certain domain-specific cognitive competencies (e.g., folk biology) strong adaptationism has proven useful but not necessary to recent progress in the field. In other cases (e.g., language), a weak adaptationist strategy has been arguably most productive in advancing scientific understanding, without precluding that the structures uncovered by other means are actually adaptations.

Keywords:   adaptationist, strong adaptationism, weak adaptationism, human cognition, adaptation

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