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Homo methodologicus and the origin of science and civilisation

Krauss, Alexander ORCID: 0000-0002-1783-2765 (2023) Homo methodologicus and the origin of science and civilisation. Heliyon, 9 (10). ISSN 2405-8440

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e20237


Few things have impacted our lives as much as science and technology, but how we developed science and civilisation is one of the most challenging questions that has not yet been well explained. Attempting to identify the central driver, leading scientists have highlighted the role of culture, cooperation and geography. They focus thus on broad factors that are important basic preconditions but that we cannot directly influence. To better address the question, this paper integrates evidence from evolutionary biology, cognitive science, methodology, archaeology and anthropology. The paper identifies 9 main preconditions necessary for contemporary science, which include 6 main preconditions for civilisation. Using a kind of quasi-experimental research design we observe that some cultures (experimental groups) met the preconditions while other cultures (control groups) did not. Among the preconditions, we explain how our mind's evolved methodological abilities (to observe, solve problems and experiment) have directly enabled acquiring knowledge about the world and collectively developing increasingly sophisticated methods (such as mathematics and more systematic experimentation) that have enabled science and civilisation. We have driven the major revolutions throughout our history – the palaeolithic technological and agricultural revolutions and later the so-called scientific, industrial and digital revolutions – by using our methodological abilities in new ways and developing new methods and tools, i.e. through methodological revolutions. Viewing our methods as the main mechanism through which we have directly developed scientific and technological knowledge, and thus science and civilisation, provides a new framework for understanding science and the history of science. Viewing humans as homo methodologicus, using an expanding methodological toolbox, provides a nuanced explanation of how we have been directly able to meet our needs, solve problems and develop vast bodies of technological and scientific knowledge. By better understanding the origin and foundations of science, we can better understand their limits and, most importantly, how to push those limits. We can do so especially by addressing the evolved cognitive constraints and biases we face and improving the methods we use.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: CPNSS
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Q Science
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2023 13:51
Last Modified: 19 May 2024 03:27

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