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On Our Minds

Hardback
, 312 pages
ISBN:
9780801873874
December 2004
List price:$50.00
Sale price:$20.00
You save:$30.00

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On Our Minds

How Evolutionary Psychology Is Reshaping the Nature versus Nurture Debate

There is no question more fundamental to human existence than that posed by the nature-versus-nurture debate. For much of the past century, it was widely believed that there was no essential human nature and that people could be educated or socialized to thrive in almost any imaginable culture. Today, that orthodoxy is being directly and forcefully challenged by a new science of the mind: evolutionary psychology. Like the theory of evolution itself, the implications of evolutionary psychology are provocative and unsettling. Rather than viewing the human mind as a mysterious black box or a blank slate, evolutionary psychologists see it as a physical organ that has evolved to process certain types of information in certain ways that enables us to thrive only in certain types of cultures.

In On Our Minds, Eric M. Gander examines all sides of the public debate between evolutionary psychologists and their critics. Paying particularly close attention to the popular science writings of Steven Pinker, Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Jay Gould, Gander traces the history of the controversy, succinctly summarizes the claims and theories of the evolutionary psychologists, dissects the various arguments deployed by each side, and considers in detail the far-reaching ramifications—social, cultural, and political—of this debate. Gander's lucid and highly readable account concludes that evolutionary psychology now holds the potential to answer our oldest and most profound moral and philosophical questions, fundamentally changing our self–perception as a species.

Eric M. Gander is an associate professor of Public Argument in the department of communication studies at Baruch College, City University of New York.

"An enjoyable and informative book."

"Gander has written a useful overview of evolutionary psychology and its implications for understanding important contemporary social issues... Gander is successful in combining sophisticated conceptual and ideological analysis with engaging writing. Both proponents and opponents of evolutionary psychology will profit from reading the book... Highly recommended."

"A lucid and thought-provoking exploration of an intellectual theme that will increasingly engage us in the coming decades: human nature and its implications. On Our Minds is clear and lively enough to interest a general audience, while containing novel analyses that should be considered by the specialists."

"This is a fine book that will arouse passions. Gander has produced a conscientious and scientifically sound account of the core evolutionary biology upon which evolutionary psychology is built, and in delightful addition, a sometimes witty, always fair account of the political and cultural high jinks of the opponents of evolutionary psychology. There is no scientific subject more politically fraught today. This is a very well written, competently documented survey of its currently salient ideas and of the story of how they came to be salient."

"A very good book for those unacquainted with or confused by the modern debate on human nature or with the principles of evolutionary psychology."

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