Challenges To Evolutionary Psychology

Challenges To Evolutionary Psychology June 29, 2009

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.

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