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Adaptive explanations of behaviors: obstacles and overcomings

Arnet, Evan (2013) Adaptive explanations of behaviors: obstacles and overcomings. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This paper seeks to clarify and modestly defend the use of adaptive explanations – explaining the existence of a trait by reference to putative historical selection pressures – within the evolutionary behavioral sciences. I identify four major areas of concern: (1) the kind of target that behavior is, (2) the explanatory strategy used by adaptive explanations, (3) the forward-looking or model-based approach to adaptive explanations, and (4) the adaptive explanation of human behaviors. After working through each of these areas, I conclude that, adaptive explanation, even via the forward-looking approach, is a viable strategy to explain the behavior of human and non-human animals, but is subject to legitimate difficulties and limitations concerning hypothesized selection pressures, cognitive complexity, and non-genetic systems of inheritance.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Arnet, Evaneda16@pitt.eduEDA16
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorMitchell, Sandrasmitchel@pitt.eduSMITCHEL
Committee MemberSchwartz, Jeffrey Hjhs@pitt.eduJHS
Committee MemberMachery, Edouardmachery@pitt.eduMACHERY
Committee MemberZollman,
Date: 18 December 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 November 2013
Approval Date: 18 December 2013
Submission Date: 4 December 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 67
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
University Honors College
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: adaptation, philosophy of biology, model-based science, adaptive explanation
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2013 20:51
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:16


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