Of humans and lichens
ResumoA statistical version of the concept of human nature remains a major foundational concept in many branches of the human sciences. The kernel of the concept is that there exists a core of species-specific phenotypes that characterises biological species, including ours. I call this view statistical essentialism. I will suggest that phenotypic typicality and uniformity are considered legitimate assumptions in many human sciences because biological development is interpreted as an inherently conservative process utilising only endogenous developmental resources, while evolution is interpreted as a normalizing process destroying phenotypic variation. I call this view homeostatic perspective. I will criticise the homeostatic perspective by presenting arguments supported by both theoretical considerations and empirical evidence. In particular, I will emphasise two anachronistic biases at the heart of the homeostatic perspective: first, its mono-morphic view of species as well as mono-organismic and mono-genomic view of the organism; secondly, its commitment to an endogenous view of developmental causation. I will finally argue that statistical essentialism is problematic because it endorses the same monistic and endogenous prejudices characterising the homeostatic perspective. Paraphrasing Margulis and Sagan, human scientists can easily fool themselves by neglecting research on human diversity and developmental plasticity.
Vecchi, D. (2014). Of humans and lichens . Scientiae Studia, 12(2), 331-357. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1678-31662014000200006
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