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Is Evolutionary Psychology Misleading Us?

Evolutionary psychology is very popular. Evolutionary psychologists draw on insights about our ancient ancestors to support modern psychological theories. Much of the time, these theories are reductionist or nativist theories that downplay the importance of social influences and learning on human behavior. In contrast, Prof. Boyd will argue that evolutionary insights do not favor reductionist or nativist theories. Instead, evolutionary psychology may be ignoring important theories that emphasize learning and social influences.

Richard Boyd has had a long and distinguished career as a member of the faculty at Cornell University, where he is the Susan Linn Sage Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Science and Technology Studies. He is well known for his work in philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, and ethics -- particularly on moral realism.

Boyd became interested in the philosophy of science while an undergraduate mathematics major at MIT, where he later earned a Ph.D. in philosophy with a dissertation in mathematical logic. His original interests in foundational issues in philosophy of science have expanded to include interests in metaphysics (especially the metaphysics of kinds and categories - like biological species and chemical compounds - and of causation), in epistemology (especially in competing notions of rationality and objectivity), in philosophy of biology (especially in issues about the foundations of biological taxonomy and about methods in sociobiology), in philosophy of mind and language and in the foundations of ethics.

Professor Boyd is visiting CMC this semester as a Podlich Distinguished Fellow. The Podlich Distinguished Fellows Program was founded by Claremont McKenna College alumnus and trustee William F. Podlich in 1998 to enrich the College intellectually by bringing preeminent figures in scholarship, business, and public affairs to campus for extended visits. While at CMC, Professor Boyd is teaching an upper division seminar in Philosophy of Science.