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Understanding the Development and Evolution of Natural Complex Systems

Modularity -- the attempt to understand systems as integrations of partially independent and interacting units -- is today a dominant theme in the life sciences, cognitive science, and computer science. The concept goes back at least implicitly to the Scientific (or Copernican) Revolution, and can be found behind later theories of phrenology, physiology, and genetics; moreover, art, engineering, and mathematics rely on modular design principles.

A History of Developmental Evolution

Although we now know that ontogeny (individual development) does not actually recapitulate phylogeny (evolutionary transformation), contrary to Ernst Haeckel's famous dictum, the relationship between embryological development and evolution remains the subject of intense scientific interest. In the 1990s a new field, evolutionary developmental biology (or evo-devo), was hailed as the synthesis of developmental and evolutionary biology.

Evolution by Natural Experiment

Natural selection is commonly interpreted as the fundamental mechanism of evolution. Questions about how selection theory can claim to be the all-sufficient explanation of evolution often go unanswered by today’s neo-Darwinists, perhaps for fear that any criticism of the evolutionary paradigm will encourage creationists and proponents of intelligent design.In Biological Emergences, Robert Reid argues that natural selection is not the cause of evolution.

The nature of the interplay between language learning and the evolution of a language over generational time is subtle. We can observe the learning of language by children and marvel at the phenomenon of language acquisition; the evolution of a language, however, is not so directly experienced. Language learning by children is robust and reliable, but it cannot be perfect or languages would never change—and English, for example, would not have evolved from the language of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

Evolutionary and Developmental Perspectives on Mind, Brain, and Behavior

In the past few decades, sources of inspiration in the multidisciplinary field of cognitive science have widened. In addition to ongoing vital work in cognitive and affective neuroscience, important new work is being conducted at the intersection of psychology and the biological sciences in general. This volume offers an overview of the cross-disciplinary integration of evolutionary and developmental approaches to cognition in light of these exciting new contributions from the life sciences.

Complexity, Creativity, and Adaptability in Human and Animal Communication

The evolutionary roots of human communication are difficult to trace, but recent comparative research suggests that the first key step in that evolutionary history may have been the establishment of basic communicative flexibility—the ability to vocalize freely combined with the capability to coordinate vocalization with communicative intent.

A Study in Translation and Transformation

The German translation of Darwin’s The Origin of Species appeared in 1860, just months after the original, thanks to Heinrich Georg Bronn, a distinguished German paleontologist whose work in some ways paralleled Darwin’s. Bronn’s version of the book (with his own notes and commentary appended) did much to determine how Darwin’s theory was understood and applied by German biologists, for the translation process involved more than the mere substitution of German words for English.

Darwinian Perspectives on Human Nature

Evolutionary psychology occupies an important place in the drive to understand and explain human behavior. Darwinian ideas provide powerful tools to illuminate how fundamental aspects of the way humans think, feel, and interact derive from reproductive interests and an ultimate need for survival. In this updated and expanded edition of Evolution and Human Behavior, John Cartwright considers the emergence of Homo sapiens as a species and looks at contemporary issues, such as familial relationships and conflict and cooperation, in light of key theoretical principles.

These six original essays focus on a potentially important aspect of evolutionary biology, the possible causal role of phenotypic behavior in evolution. Balancing theory with actual or potential empiricism, they provide the first full examination of this topic.Plotkin's opening chapter outlines the "conceptual minefields" that the contributors attempt to negotiate: What is an adequate theory of evolution? What is behavior and is it possible to maintain a distinction between behavior and other attributes of the phenotype?


Conscious control enables human decision makers to override routines, to exercise willpower, to find innovative solutions, to learn by instruction, to decide collectively, and to justify their choices. These and many more advantages, however, come at a price: the ability to process information consciously is severely limited and conscious decision makers are liable to hundreds of biases. Measured against the norms of rational choice theory, conscious decision makers perform poorly.

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