Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Modest adaptationism: Muddling through cognition and language

Scott Atran a1
a1 CNRS – Institut Jean Nicod, 75007 Paris, France; ISR – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248 [email protected]


Strong adaptationists would explain complex organic designs as specific adaptations to particular ancestral environments. Weak adaptationists don't assume that complex organic functioning represents evolutionary design in the sense of niche-specific adaptation. For some domain-specific competencies (folkbiology) strong adaptationism is useful, not necessary. With group-level belief systems (religion), strong adaptationism can become spurious pseudo-adaptationism. In other cases (language), weak adaptationism proves productive.