•  20
    We need behavioural ecology to explain the institutional authority of the gods
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6): 742-742. 2004.
    Atran & Norenzayan (A&N) rightly criticize cognitive theories for failure to explain sacrifice and commitment. But their attempt to reconcile cognitivism with commitment theory is unconvincing. Why should imaginary entities be effective in punishing moral defectors? Heavy costs are entailed in enforcing community-wide social contracts, and behavioural ecology is needed to explain how and why evolving humans could afford these costs.
  •  4
    The secret of lateralisation is trust
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (2): 231-232. 2003.
    Human right-handedness does not originate in vocalisation as such but in selection pressures for structuring complex sequences of digital signals internally, as if in a vacuum. Cautious receivers cannot automatically accept signals in this way. Biological displays are subjected to contextual scrutiny on a signal-by-signal basis – a task requiring coordination of both hemispheres. In order to explain left cerebral dominance in human manual and vocal signalling, we must therefore ask why it became…Read more
  • _A fresh and fascinating look at the philosophies, politics, and intellectual legacy of one of the twentieth century’s most influential and controversial minds_ Occupying a pivotal position in postwar thought, Noam Chomsky is both the founder of modern linguistics and the world’s most prominent political dissident. Chris Knight adopts an anthropologist’s perspective on the twin output of this intellectual giant, acclaimed as much for his denunciations of US foreign policy as for his theories abo…Read more
  •  13
    Words are not costly displays: Shortcomings of a testosterone-fuelled model of language evolution
    with Camilla Power
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (3): 290-291. 2006.
    Only by misconstruing the term performative are the authors able to argue that males surpass females in “performative applications” of language. Linguistic performatives are not costly displays of quality, and syntax cannot be explained as an outcome of behavioural competition between pubertal males. However, there is room for a model in which language co-evolves with the unique human life-history stage of adolescence.
  •  20
    Language and kinship: We need some Darwinian theory here
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (5): 389-390. 2010.
    Common to language and kinship is digital format. This is a discovery, not an innate feature of human cognition. But to produce a testable model, we need Darwinian behavioural ecology
  •  12
    Does cultural evolution need matriliny?
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2): 339-340. 2001.
    Cetacean cultural transmission is associated with lengthened postmenopausal life histories and relatively stable matrilineal social structures. Although Homo erectus was not marine adapted, broadly comparable selection pressures, life history profiles, and social structures can be inferred
  •  18
    'Honest fakes' and language origins
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (10-11): 236-248. 2008.
  •  27
    Language co-evolved with the rule of law
    Mind and Society 7 (1): 109-128. 2007.
    Many scholars assume a connection between the evolution of language and that of distinctively human group-level morality. Unfortunately, such thinkers frequently downplay a central implication of modern Darwinian theory, which precludes the possibility of innate psychological mechanisms evolving to benefit the group at the expense of the individual. Group level moral regulation is indeed central to public life in all known human communities. The production of speech acts would be impossible with…Read more