Challenges To Evolutionary Psychology

Interesting arguments.  I’m not sure how many of them threaten the credibility of either evolutionary psychology or sociobiology as disciplines themselves , rather than specific morally and politically unpleasant theses advanced by particular theories derived by scientists working within those fields.  And these arguments force evo psych and sociobiology to incorporate a view of the brain as much more interactive with the environment and providing less fixed human universals than (apparently) those fields want.

One thing is clear is that moral and political resistance to an unflattering interpretation of our genetic history should be considered an irrelevant obstacle to the truth about how they work.  Getting disquieting accounts of what we are has no immediate impact on our ethics or politics.  Rather they give us the tools to properly understand ourselves and figure out how to achieve our flourishing in interaction with the actual biology, physiology, and psychology we have.

We shouldn’t be afraid of ugly truths about our own weaknesses.

But those side-shows aside, this conclusion about the implications for psychology sounds quite plausible and amenable to my own thinking:

The discovery of genes as young as agriculture and city-states, rather than as old as cavemen, means “we have to rethink to foundational assumptions” of evo psych, says Miller, starting with the claim that there are human universals and that they are the result of a Stone Age brain. Evolution indeed sculpted the human brain. But it worked in malleable plastic, not stone, bequeathing us flexible minds that can take stock of the world and adapt to it.

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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