Weissman School of Arts and Sciences

The Olive-Pitter and the Mind: What Sherlock Holmes, Charles Darwin and C.S. Peirce Can Tell Us About How We Should Understand Human Nature

The Department of Communication Studies Brown Bag Series Presents A conversation with Professor Eric M. Gander

Wednesday, February 10th at 12:45 (VC-8210)

How can the most famous fictional detective ever created and the most important American philosopher no one has ever heard of help us to better understand Charles Darwin's theory of evolution as it applies to the human mind?  That is the question I shall try to answer in this talk.  I begin with a short discussion of the broad importance of this question. 

Next I examine both the concept of "reverse engineering," as that notion is applied by evolutionary psychologists to the study of the mind, and the concept of "abduction," as that notion is developed and extended by Charles Peirce and others.  I argue that what evolutionary psychologists say they are doing when they engage in reverse engineering is actually better understood as abduction, and that when this becomes clear many of what seem to be the most persuasive methodological attacks against evolutionary psychology are revealed as confusions on the part of the critics of evolutionary psychology. The conclusion I draw is that, properly understood, evolutionary psychology can provide a rich and scientifically satisfying way of understanding the human mind -- and thus human nature.

Eric M. Gander is Associate Professor of Public Argument in the Department of Communication Studies at Baruch College, CUNY. His research focuses on improving public argument by critiquing public discussion and debate on a wide range of issues in domains like science, political philosophy, law, and ethics. He is the author of several books, including On Our Minds: How Evolutionary Psychology is Reshaping the Nature versus Nurture Debate, published in 2003 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

The City University of New York