This paper has three goals: (1) to define the anthropological subfield of human behavioral ecology (HBE) and characterize recent progress in this research tradition; (2) to address Joseph's (2000) critique of HBE from the perspective of an advocate of that field; and (3) to suggest features that make for effective criticism of research traditions. (1) HBE attempts to understand intra- and inter-societal diversity in human behavior as the product of species-wide adaptive goals which must be realized in highly diverse, socio-environmental circumstances. Theoretically, HBE draws selectively from neo-Darwinism and its cultural-evolutionary analogs, from micro-economics, and from elements of formal decision and game theory. Applications generally use simple, formal models as heuristic devices for generating testable hypotheses about resource use, reproductive and social behavior, and life history traits. (2) Using Kuhn's (1977) and McMullin's (1983) criteria for assessing progress in a research tradition, I examine Joseph's review of HBE, indicating the several points on which we agree and the greater number for which I believe her criticisms are misplaced or in error. (3) Finally, I try to describe general features of effective critique, in the sense of critical commentary that enables the advance of scientific understanding through collective scholarly effort. Such criticism will be necessary if we are to sort out the relative strengths and potential contributions of the several research traditions in human ecology (e.g., cultural ecology, historical ecology, political ecology, etc.).
Winterhalder, Bruce. "Behavioral and Other Human Ecologies: Critique, Response and Progress through Criticism." Journal of Ecological Anthropology 6, no. 1 (2002): 4-23.
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