Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
Atran: Folk biology

Doubts about a unified cognitive theory of taxonomic knowledge and its memic status

Roy Ellen a1
a1 Department of Anthropology, Eliot College, University of Kent at Canterbury, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NS United Kingdom


The evidence for a panhuman, cognitively rooted, essence-based concept of basic natural kind and for certain prototypical phenomenal forms is increasingly compelling, but there remain doubts as to whether these two elements combine with a principle of taxonomy to form a unified, domain-specific theory in the way Atran claims. The appropriateness of the notion of meme can also be questioned, as can the assertion that humans are always grouped in ethnobiological classifications in unambiguous contrast to other animals.