chapter
20 Pages

Introduction

ByHarvey Whitehouse

Social scientists are notoriously scornful of the naive reductionism of socio-biological and psychological perspectives on culture while those working in fields of biology and cognitive science have often been exasperated at the reluctance of social/cultural theorists to recognize the explanatory power and relevance of naturalistic models in the study of human behaviour. One of the greatest controversies fuelling this unproductive situation has been the so-called nature/nurture debate. Crudely, if it could have been demonstrated that cultural phenomena are the infinitely variable consequences of'learned' mental abilities then the social scientists would have been vindicated in their dismissal of most biological perspectives. Conversely, if it could have been shown that certain cultural things are shaped by 'innate' features of mental processing then the successful encroachment of biologists would have been assured.