Sunday, January 21, 2007

Evolutionary psychology: This is a … discipline?

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Categories : Intelligent Design

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published: dimanche 21 janvier 2007 0:37:06

I have been meaning for some time to set down my reasons for thinking that evolutionary psychology is only questionably a discipline. At least seven reasons occur to me (actually more, but these seven are top of mind):

1. There is no actual “subject” for the research. The subject of evolutionary psychology is a hypothetical construct: “early humans,” whose genes are thought to survive in modern humans and govern our behaviour. But these early humans have not existed for at least a hundred thousand years, so their behaviour can never be directly tested. It reminds me of the problem with the biology of extraterrestrial life forms - a discipline without a subject, as Simpson noted.

2. It is pure conjecture that given common types of behaviour are somehow inherited from early humans. In most cases, a simpler, more obvious explanation is readily available. For example, an evolutionary psychologist might argue that a woman doesn’t want her man to cheat because he might produce children with another woman and thus prevent her from passing on her selfish genes. But such an explanation defies Occam’s Razor (the simplest explanation is best). Obviously, she does not want her man to cheat because she does not want attention directed at another woman that could be going to her. Whether she is - or ever will be - infanticipating is irrelevant to her and - for that matter - irrelevant to her genes. She would feel the same way if she were 17 or 70. It is hard to imagine a state of human or proto-human life in which things could have been any different.

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