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In Gods We TrustThe Evolutionary Landscape of Religion$
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Scott Atran

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195178036

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195178036.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 January 2022

The Mindless Agent

The Mindless Agent

Evolutionary Adaptations and By-products

(p.21) 2 The Mindless Agent
In Gods We Trust


Oxford University Press

The evolutionary concept of adaptation differs from more general notions of adaptation or “adaptiveness” current in anthropology and ecology. The idea of adaptation most congenial to evolutionary psychology is that of George Williams. Invoking adaptation is appropriate when there is evidence of a functional design that solves some recurrent problem in an ancestral environment and when there is evidence of fitness-promoting modification of design by natural selection. If we consider the broader evolutionary arguments for the emergence of the concept of self, for human language, or for our big brains, such arguments are numerous and as varied and contradictory. Evolutionary considerations in these areas are also all backward-looking rather than forward-looking. This chapter provides some suggestive evidence that at least some primate species have evolved abstract computational mechanisms for constructing kin categories, which allow context-dependent flexibility in monitoring and mobilizing genetic relationships and obligations.

Keywords:   adaptation, George Williams, natural selection, context-dependent flexibility, genetic relationships, primate species

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