The term "folkbiology" refers to people's everyday understanding of the biological world—how they perceive, categorize, and reason about living kinds. The study of folkbiology not only sheds light on human nature, it may ultimately help us make the transition to a global economy without irreparably damaging the environment or destroying local cultures.

This book takes an interdisciplinary approach, bringing together the work of researchers in anthropology, cognitive and developmental psychology, biology, and philosophy of science. The issues covered include: Are folk taxonomies a first-order approximation to classical scientific taxonomies, or are they driven more directly by utilitarian concerns? How are these category schemes linked to reasoning about natural kinds? Is there any nontrivial sense in which folk-taxonomic structures are universal? What impact does science have on folk taxonomy? Together, the chapters present the current foundations of folkbiology and indicate new directions in research.

Contributors: Scott Atran, Terry Kit-fong Au, Brent Berlin, K. David Bishop, John D. Coley, Jared Diamond, John Dupré, Roy Ellen, Susan A. Gelman, Michael T. Ghiselin, Grant Gutheil, Giyoo Hatano, Lawrence A. Hirschfeld, David L. Hull, Eugene Hunn, Kayoko Inagaki, Frank C. Keil, Daniel T. Levin, Elizabeth Lynch, Douglas L. Medin, Julia Beth Proffitt, Bethany A. Richman, Laura F. Romo, Sandra R. Waxman.

Table of Contents

  1. Contributors
  2. 1. Introduction

    Douglas L. Medin and Scott Atran

  3. 2. Ethno-ornithology of the Ketengban People, Indonesian New Guinea

    Jared Diamond and K. David Bishop

  4. 3. Size as Limiting the Recognition of Biodiversity in Folkbiological Classifications: One of Four Factors Governing the Cultural Recognition of Biological Taxa

    Eugene Hunn

  5. 4. How a Folkbotanical System Can Be Both Natural and Comprehensive: One Maya Indian's View of the Plant World

    Brent Berlin

  6. 5. Models of Subsistence and Ethnobiological Knowledge: Between Extraction and Cultivation in Southeast Asia

    Roy Ellen

  7. 6. Itzaj Maya Folkbiological Taxonomy: Cognitive Universals and Cultural Particulars

    Scott Atran

  8. 7. Inductive Reasoning in Folkbiological Thought

    John D. Coley, Douglas L. Medin, Julia Beth Proffitt, Elizabeth Lynch and Scott Atran

  9. 8. The Dubbing Ceremony Revisited: Object Naming and Categorization in Infancy and Early Childhood

    Sandra R. Waxman

  10. 9. Mechanism and Explanation in the Development of Biological Thought: The Case of Disease

    Frank C. Keil, Daniel T. Levin, Bethany A. Richman and Grant Gutheil

  11. 10. A Developmental Perspective on Informal Biology

    Giyoo Hatano and Kayoko Inagaki

  12. 11. Mechanical Causality in Children's "Folkbiology"

    Terry Kit-fong Au and Laura F. Romo

  13. 12. How Biological Is Essentialism?

    Susan A. Gelman and Lawrence A. Hirschfeld

  14. 13. Natural Kinds and Supraorganismal Individuals

    Michael T. Ghiselin

  15. 14. Are Whales Fish?

    John Dupré

  16. 15. Interdisciplinary Dissonance

    David L. Hull

  17. Index