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


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.