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Exploring the folkbiological conception of human nature

Linquist, S and Machery, E and Griffiths, PE and Stotz, K (2011) Exploring the folkbiological conception of human nature. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 366 (1563). 444 - 453. ISSN 0962-8436

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Integrating the study of human diversity into the human evolutionary sciences requires substantial revision of traditional conceptions of a shared human nature. This process may be made more difficult by entrenched, 'folkbiological' modes of thought. Earlier work by the authors suggests that biologically naive subjects hold an implicit theory according to which some traits are expressions of an animal's inner nature while others are imposed by its environment. In this paper, we report further studies that extend and refine our account of this aspect of folkbiology. We examine biologically naive subjects' judgments about whether traits of an animal are 'innate', 'in its DNA' or 'part of its nature'. Subjects do not understand these three descriptions to be equivalent. Both innate and in its DNA have the connotation that the trait is species-typical. This poses an obstacle to the assimilation of the biology of polymorphic and plastic traits by biologically naive audiences. Researchers themselves may not be immune to the continuing pull of folkbiological modes of thought. © 2011 The Royal Society.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Linquist, S
Machery, Emachery@pitt.eduMACHERY
Griffiths, PE
Stotz, K
Date: 12 February 2011
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume: 366
Number: 1563
Page Range: 444 - 453
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0224
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0962-8436
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2013 16:13
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2019 15:59


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