Monday, January 06, 2014

evolutionary psychology: "fashionable ideology" or "new foundation"?

human-nature | At the end of The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote: "In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation. . . Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history."1 It took more than 100 years but, in the closing decades of the 20th century, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection began to be applied to minds, brains and behaviour. "Evolutionary psychology" argues that the mind is a collection of special-purpose software designed by natural selection to solve the problems of survival and reproduction that faced our ancestors -- problems such as finding food, picking suitable habitats, attracting mates, learning a language and navigating the social world.2

However, this new development is not without its critics. Alas, Poor Darwin -- a collection of essays edited by Hilary and Steven Rose -- bring these critics together to argue that evolutionary psychology is a "fashionable ideology" whose adherents are "fundamentalists" who promote "simple-minded", "socially irresponsible", "culturally pernicious" explanations of human behaviour that rest on "shaky empirical evidence, flawed premises and unexamined political presuppositions".

Many chapters in Alas, Poor Darwin repeat the accusations that evolutionary psychology is reductionist, determinist and adaptationist -- "accusations" that have been made and dealt with many times before.3 Other chapters misidentify evolutionary psychology with the theory of memes,4 or criticise versions of evolutionary psychology that no one in the field would recognise or defend.5 For these reasons, this review will not look at each chapter in detail.6 Instead, after briefly introducing evolutionary psychology, the review will look at the Roses' five main "arguments against" it, and will then consider the Roses' account of the politics of the discipline.

8 comments:

Dale Asberry said...

All overt or covert activity serves the immediate function of impelling the organism toward equilibrium
This fractal duality permeates all facets of this universe. Space-time itself is conscious. And this complete suffusion is God.

CNu said...

Umm..., what means "fractal duality"?

DD said...

I think high emotional intelligence is one of my most valuable skills. I train salespeople. It's true that the implementation of this, and any other power skill, is amoral. Frankly, I find my ability to manipulate others emotionally frightening. I like to do a la Penn & Teller, complete the trick while telling the audience how it's done. Great skill to develop, don't want it in the wrong hands. Since nobody gets to decide who is and isn't worthy of this skill, everyone should work very hard to develop it.

Vic78 said...

I remember thinking about free will in high school. I thought about it at the time in the context of a god that was omniscient. I was never able to make sense of it. My peers thought I was a little slow at the time because I was so focused internally. I knew I couldn't talk to them about that sort of thing at the time. I wish I had known about Liebniz back then. The problems never went away. It's a tension I've learned to tolerate.

There is progress in philosophy even though it seems like one is going in circles. I don't know how many times I threw an idea away just to pick it back up later.

John Kurman said...

Off topic, save maybe I should get a Darwin Award, but I just went outside, barefoot, t-shirt and jeans. And it was fan-fucking-tastic. Reverse Sauna. For a little bit. Then it sucked. -45 wind chill.

CNu said...

One of the boilers broke down in my building and I was uncomfortable and in gloves in my office all day long. When I went outside on my weekly foraging run to CVS, I didn't have my head sock on quite snugly enough, the hawk got in on my glasses, face, and unnaturally elongated forehead, and it felt like somebody had driven a frozen spike through my sinuses and into my brain pan. That "polar vortex" is no joke, gonna be some casualties from this, and I don't expect it to be any better in the office today.

CNu said...

In all seriousness, if psychedelics has been properly and diligently investigated and systematically employed by the academic and scientific mainstream, I expect we would have have already experienced an applied evolutionary leap in theoretical physics, cognitive science, molecular biology, philosophy and metaphysics.

Dale Asberry said...

Fractal Duality and the Nature of the Universe

American Elites Begin Acknowledging America's Decline...,

This month has seen a bevy of new thinkpieces from top American deepstate figures or old-guard publications urging the changing of course,...