The Nativist Input Problem: Why Evolutionary Psychology Still Can’t Explain Human Intelligence

Linus (Ta-Lun) HuangUniversity of Sydney

Abstract

One distinctive feature of human intelligence is a high level of flexibility, that "there is no end to the kinds of problems human reason can deal with" (Horgan & Tienson, 1996). However, no theory has adequately explained such unique capacity. Recently, evolutionary psychologists have confronted this challenge by building models that have the potential to generate human flexibility via interaction of modules and learning. The key idea is that our cognitive system can learn to self-assemble, out of our sophisticated adaptive toolbox, new mechanisms that solve novel problems. In this paper, I identify a serious information routing problem, “the nativist input problem”. It is, briefly, a crippling limitation to the range of contexts in which evolutionary psychology can handle information routing reliably. I argue that it undermines successful self-assembly required for these models to explain human flexibility, highlighting nativism as one of the most problematic commitments of evolutionary psychology.

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