Evolutionary Psychology as Computational Theory in the Cognitive Sciences

Volume 29
Winter 2001
Evolutionary Psychology as Computational Theory in the Cognitive Sciences

Scarcely a decade old, evolutionary psychology (EP) has developed a high profile within the cognitive sciences. EP'€™s niche involves what David Marr (1982) called "€œcomputational theories:"€ functional descriptions of what information processing devices, including brains, are designed to do. Such theories constrain and inform the search for cognitive and neural descriptions of the device. EP is characterized by primary commitments to modularity of mind, the use of evolutionary biology'€™s adaptationist program to generate hypotheses regarding mental modules, and the use of cognitive science'€™s methods for testing such hypotheses. It is also characterized by a number of secondary commitments and positions on important issues that are not necessitated by the evolutionary approach. These are defensible within the broader fields of human behavior and cognition, and by tertiary commitments that are logically unrelated to the EP program but nonetheless characteristic of the field (i.e., anti-theistic biases and other strong reductionisms). EP has much to offer. Combining the conceptual methods of evolutionary biology and the empirical methods of the cognitive sciences seems genuinely promising, but it'€™s rhetoric is strong for an immature discipline and its reductionism pits it against disciplines with which it might productively coexist. The primary (and even secondary) commitments are not antithetical to an orthodox Christian faith, but the anti-theistic and anti-religious tendencies of some vocal protagonists represent a challenge.

Dr. T.G. Fikes
340 - 360
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