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Why Social Science Needs Evolutionary Theory

Cristine Legare: A deeper scientific understanding leads to the view that learning doesn’t compete with evolution as an explanation for human psychology. Learning requires evolved psychological adaptations — general learning mechanisms or mechanisms which may be specific to a particular adaptive problem. Specialized learning mechanisms help us avoid eating toxic food, yet no one is born knowing which particular foods to avoid. Humans have also evolved an aversion to mating with their genetic kin but are not born knowing who their kin are. Solving these adaptive challenges requires evolved psychological learning mechanisms. Human cognition and behavior is the product of the interaction of genetic and cultural evolution. Gene-culture co-evolution has allowed us to adapt to highly diverse ecologies and to produce cultural adaptations and innovations. It has also produced extraordinary cultural diversity.

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