email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny
Are humans, as are other animals, born with predispositions to
behave in specific ways in specific situations? Or are we a "chosen
species", born tabula rasa, with relative freedom
to shape our destinies, without any preconfigured limitations?
For decades -- centuries if you see this in the context of the
broader question of determinism vs. free will -- this issue has
been a source of great noise and commotion among academics and
philosophers (and theologians). But editor Harvey Whitehouse insists
that the present collection of chapters is not just another attempt
to negotiate a tête-à-tête in the related so-called
nature-nurture controversy. All of the present book's authors
accept as given (to varying degrees) the position that biology
and genetics are important factors in human cognitive and behavioral
development. Whitehouse explains that instead it is the form
and the significance of this genetic contribution that
is debated in the present volume.
Whitehead notes, for example, "[A] central question is whether
distinct computational capacities are genetically specified .
. . or whether our task is to account for the evolution of rather
more undifferentiated, general-purpose cognitive equipment"
(p. 2). (This echoes a parallel question debated among intelligence
researchers -- are mental abilities specialized or do they instead
derive from a g factor, a general cognitive capacity?)
However, as Whitehouse goes on to explain, "the root of the
[present] debate . . . [is] about the way in which multidisciplinary
research, and interdisciplinary cross-fertilization, should proceed"
(p. 3). According to Whitehouse, the authors of the first section
of this book feel that research and theorizing about the biological
roots of social-cultural phenomena can proceed independently of
research on the strictly cultural aspects of such tendencies,
a position with which the authors included in the book's second
section appear to disagree.
Even after this explanation of the nature of the dispute, however,
its exact parameters and points of contention continued to elude
me. Each of the six chapters is quite interesting in itself, though
they seemed to me only tangentially connected. After reflecting
on it, I concluded that this book's intended connecting theme
was probably the issue of how evolved adaptations result in tendencies
to form social affiliations which then extend outward to produce
what we (euphemistically) call culture. Each of the authors clearly
had an opinion about what is the most important aspect of this
issue, as well as specialized interests for which this book provided
Among the issues considered by one or more authors in this collection
are some that generalists will find especially interesting. One
example, modularity, is broached even in the first chapter
by Sperber. This is a current, fascinating, easy-to-grasp, but
deceptively important question: do humans possess task-specific
"mental modules" that result in behaviors (either mental
or action-based) that are activated by environmental or situational
demands? Sperber's chapter about this question is quite readable
Another issue that general readers will find interesting is that
the work of Piaget and other developmentalists is being seriously
reviewed, perhaps for the first time in five or six decades. Most
of those in psychology or related fields will have learned by
heart the Piagetian developmental sequence, the stages of cognitive
development. Who would have thought these would ever be seriously
challenged? (Of course, the jury is still out, so Piaget may be
In summary, due to its at-times relentless use of technical language
and the subtlety of its thrust, this book will appeal most to
academics and specialists, but in fact holds plenty that would
interest the general reader who is interested in evolutionary
psychology and culture.
© 2001 Keith S. Harris
Keith Harris, Ph.D.,
is a clinical psychologist and supervisor of Victor Valley Behavioral
Health Center in San Bernardino county, California. His interests
include clinical supervision, the empirical basis for psychotherapy
research (and its design), human decision-making processes, and
the shaping of human nature by evolutionary forces.
This review first appeared online Sept 1, 2001
Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology.
We feature over 7800 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and
We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.
Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'
Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send
review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank
you for your support!
Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these
announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click
Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers
for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.
Metapsychology Online Reviews
Promote your Page too
Metapsychology Online Reviews