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A Science of Human Nature?

Philosophical Disputes at the Interface of Natural and Social Science

Studying at Cambridge

A Science of Human Nature? Philosophical Disputes at the Interface of Natural and Social Science

Recent years have seen renewed attempts on the part of natural scientists to invigorate and inform the social sciences. Two prominent examples include the efforts of cultural evolutionary theorists to account for cultural change and cultural stasis, and the efforts of evolutionary psychologists to provide a scientific account of human nature. The two trends are sometimes seen as mutually complementary, sometimes as antagonistic: cultural evolutionary theory needs to be informed by research on human psychology, and some argue that evolutionary psychology can provide this. In both cases, these efforts have met considerable resistance from the social sciences, especially from social anthropology. Opponents of evolutionary approaches often argue not so much that an integrated synthesis between cultural and evolutionary approaches is impossible, but rather that the evolutionists have failed to understand the legitimate sources of resistance to neo-Darwinian approaches within social and cultural anthropology. This five-year multidisciplinary project seeks to uncover the philosophical foundations of these disputes, to offer a resolution of them, and ultimately to point the way towards a reconciliation of the two domains.

 

This project is generously supported by the European Research Council. All are welcome to our events, whether they are evolutionary enthusiasts or sceptics. We hope to attract the participation of philosophers and historians of science, researchers from the biological sciences, psychology, and all branches of archaeology and anthropology. We have a weekly reading group, details of which can be found here. If you are interested in participating in this project, or would like to find out more about it, please contact the project administrator Dr Beth Hannon.

 

Full details of the project can be found in the original proposal submitted to the ERC, here.