Cognition and Evolution

From: Holloway, Stephen (
Date: Sun May 26 1996 - 16:00:33 BST

How can evolution help to explain cognition?

Richard Dawkins likened Evolution to a Blind Watchmaker making a watch.
He said that all the organisms surviving on the planet through all the
changes, is just random variation and a completely blind process. He
concluded that those organisms possessing the best adaptions, will
survive. Darwin's arguement was similar to this. Survival relied on
the ability or chance that an organism could adapt to a change in it's
environment. The sociabiological argument says that it is survival of
the fittest genes and not the individual that is of relevance to
evolution. This is called Inclusive fitness.

However, Darwin proposes two causes for how evolution has helped to
explain cogniton, Distal and Proximal. Distal causes are those very
early causes that were necessary for survival and reproduction. For
example, eating sugar was necessary for raising the blood sugar levels
and giving one the energy to stay alive. The Proximal reaction to this
is, now we eat sugar because we like the taste of it and not primarily
because we need it to survive. Proximal causes are present
psychological ones and invlove what we want and what we feel like
doing. Because cognition is our brain and mind telling us what we want
and feel like doing it is fair to say that the distal causes which have
bred the Proximal causes into our evryday lives do help to explain


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