chapter  2
26 Pages

Darwinian dichotomies and their dissolution

Our journey starts with Darwin and his voyage on HMS Beagle, because the theory of evolution which emerged from it provided the grounds for a view of development as based upon two alter­ native forms of cause, natural selection and learning, which has underpinned theories of development ever since. As others have pointed out (e.g. Morss, 1990) the dominant paradigm is not a faithful reflection of what Darwin wrote. Nor is he the only source of influence. Dichotomies are common and they were not invented by Darwin. It could well be that this one is due in part to the writings of philosophers, such as Descartes, who believed that all organic nature was determined, but that the 'thinking I' was not, and Locke, who believed that some human characteris­ tics like personality, were inborn, due to 'nature', but experience, 'nurture', was the only source of knowledge, or Kant, who set apart living things' from the laws of physics, the material world. What matters here is to show the influence on thinking that the dichotomy has exerted and continues to exert in developmental psychology. It dominates, the newest textbooks still using versions of the same dichotomous terms that Darwin's theory popularized, reinforcing the maintenance of the assumptions underpinning them. If it is wrong, as I believe, it has to be confronted and replaced. But we must start small, with a short account of the basic thinking used to justify the assumptions.