Alison Gopnik and her collaborators have recently proposed a novel account of the relationship between scientific cognition and cognitive development in childhood. According to this view, the processes underlying cognitive development in infants and children and the processes underlying scientific cognition are identical. We argue that Gopnik's bold hypothesis is untenable because it, along with much of cognitive science, neglects the many important ways in which human minds are designed to operate within a social environment. This leads to a neglect of norms and the processes of social transmission which have an important effect on scientific cognition and cognition more generally.
In two recent books and a number of articles, Alison Gopnik and her collaborators have proposed a bold and intriguing hypothesis about the relationship between scientific cognition and cognitive development in early childhood. In this chapter we will argue that Gopnik's bold hypothesis is untenable. More specifically, we will argue that even if Gopnik and her collaborators are right about cognitive development in early childhood they are wrong about science. The minds of normal adults and of older children are more complex than the minds of young children, as Gopnik portrays them, and some of the mechanisms that play no role in Gopnik's account of cognitive development in early childhood play an essential role in scientific cognition.
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