Buller, David J. 1959–

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Buller, David J. 1959–

PERSONAL: Born 1959.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Philosophy, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, professor of philosophy.


Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

(Editor) Function, Selection, and Design, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 2005.

Contributor of articles to academic books, including "Evolutionary Psychology" in Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, Cambridge University Press, in press, and "Evolutionary Psychology: A Critique" in Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology, 3rd edition, MIT Press, in press. Contributor to scholarly journals, including Biology and Philosophy and Philosophical Quarterly.

SIDELIGHTS: David J. Buller is a philosopher whose writings take issue with the theory of Evolutionary Psychology, which posits that certain behavioral traits are common in modern humans because they proved adaptive hundreds of thousands of years ago. These behaviors include mating rituals in which men are attracted to young, fertile women and women who are attracted to high-status men. While Buller does not dismiss these notions outright, his book Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature focuses on examining the research behind these ideas, much of which he feels is flawed.

"I wanted to show people that there are grounds for skepticism," Buller told J.R. Minkel in an interview for the Scientific American. Part of this skepticism comes from his view that the success of the human species is largely a function of "cortical plasticity, which allows for rapidly adaptive changes to the environment, both across evolutionary time and [across] individual lifetimes," he told Minkel. Furthermore, Buller argues that what is commonly meant by the term "human nature" is far from universal; there is no such thing as "normal" human behavior. Because scientists do not even agree on who our evolutionary ancestors were and how they behaved, as Buller explains in his book, it is nearly impossible to make educated assumptions on how that behavior affects us to the present day.

In reviewing Adapting Minds for the Times Literary Supplement, Jerry Fodor found that Buller made as many erroneous assumptions about human behavior as do the Evolutionary Psychologists. "Playing fast and loose with the notion of design is, notoriously, the soft underbelly of Adaptationism," he wrote. "The more Buller explains his views, the more mysterious they seem," Fodor concluded. Others found Buller's ideas more plausible. Amanda Schaffer, writing for Slate online, explained that "crucially, Buller notes, in order for significant change to have occurred in the human mind in the last 10 millennia, evolution need not have built complex brain structures from scratch but simply modified existing ones."



Scientific American, July 4, 2005, J.R. Minkel, "Psyching Out Evolutionary Psychology: Interview with David J. Buller."

Skeptical Inquirer, July-August, 2005, Benjamin Radford, review of Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature, p. 58.

Times Literary Supplement (London, England), July 29, 2005, Jerry Fodor, review of Adapting Minds.


Slate, http://slate.msn.com/ (August 16, 2005), Amanda Schaffer, "Cave Thinkers: How Evolutionary Psychology Gets Evolution Wrong."