, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 541-557

The prospects for an evolutionary psychology: Human language and human reasoning

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Abstract

Evolutionary psychology purports to explain human capacities as adaptations to an ancestral environment. A complete explanation of human language or human reasoning as adaptations depends on assessing an historical claim, that these capacities evolved under the pressure of natural selection and are prevalent because they provided systematic advantages to our ancestors. An outline of the character of the information needed in order to offer complete adaptation explanations is drawn from Robert Brandon (1990), and explanations offered for the evolution of language and reasoning within evolutionary psychology are evaluated. Pinker and Bloom's (1992) defense of human language as an adaptation for verbal communication, Robert Nozick's (1993) account of the evolutionary origin of rationality, and Cosmides and Tooby's (1992) explanation of human reasoning as an adaptation for social exchange, are discussed in light of what is known, and what is not known, about the history of human evolution. In each case, though a plausible case is made that these capacities are adaptations, there is not enough known to offer even a semblance of an explanation of the origin of these capacities. These explanations of the origin of human thought and language are simply speculations lacking the kind of detailed historical information required for an evolutionary explanation of an adaptation.