What is it about human nature that makes our species capable of thinking scientifically? Inspired by a debate between Noam Chomsky and Jean Piaget, Scott Atran traces the development of natural history from Aristotle to Darwin, and demonstrates how the science of plants and animals has emerged from the common conceptions of folkbiology. The author proceeds not only from the more traditional philosophical, historical or sociological perspectives, but from a point of view he considers more basic and necessary to all of these: that of cognition.
' ... only Atran could have written this book, because only Atran combines the deep understanding of anthropology, biological systematics, history of science, and philosophy necessary to write it. The result is a book that contains more substance per page than any book I have read in a generation.' David Hull, Biology and Philosophy 'This subtle and sophisticated book has a little of that same power to shock by innocence. It is about how children think of living things, less a matter of what they learn than of what human nature teaches about nature.' Ian Hacking, London Review of Books 'There can be no doubt that the book establishes new standards of rigour in its area and will be the starting-point for future investigations in years to come.' Andrew Brennan, Times Higher Education Supplement