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The Evolutionary Psychology Journal, Serious Entertainment

“That scientific gentleman with the bald, egg-like head and the bare, bird-like neck had no real right to the airs of science that he assumed. He had not discovered anything new in biology; but what biological creature could he have discovered more singular than himself? Thus, and thus only, the whole place had properly to be regarded; it had to be considered not so much as a workshop for artists, but as a frail but finished work of art. A man who stepped into its social atmosphere felt as if he had stepped into a written comedy.”

~G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who was Thursday

I am endlessly intrigued by Evolutionary Psychology. I found this evolutionary psychology journal, and it’s just too good not to share. Here are a few articles, and a quote from their respective abstract:

1. Parent-Offspring Conflict over Mating: The Case of Mating Age

Parents and offspring have asymmetrical preferences with respect to mate choice. So far, several areas of disagreement have been identified, including beauty, family background, and sexual strategies. This article proposes that mating age constitutes another area of conflict, as parents desire their children to initiate mating at a different age than the offspring desire it for themselves. More specifically, the hypothesis is tested that individuals prefer for their offspring to start having sexual relationships at a later age than they prefer for themselves to do so.

Or, this phenomenon could be called “Learning from Your Mistakes and Wanting Better for Your Children.”

Or maybe it should be called “Kids Don’t Know Any Better, and Parents have a Real Job in Teaching Them What is Right and Wrong. They are, after all, the Parents.

Or “Do as I say, Not as I Have Done.“—which implies that the parents learned from their mistakes.  We do not have to evolve these characteristics. It’s really just generic parenting presupposing a real and objective morality that the parents know, and are trying to teach. The teaching is, of course, contrary to “passing genes” as the singularly most important mantra of evolution. To evolutionary psychologists, it doesn’t much matter whether passing genes or not passing genes is occurring, they both come from the same taproot of evolution. Nothing would falsify it.

2. Distinguishing Between Perceiver and Wearer Effects in Clothing Color – Associated Attributions

Recent studies have noted positive effects of red clothing on success in competitive sports, perhaps arising from an evolutionary predisposition to associate thecolor red with dominance status. Red may also enhance judgments of women’s attractiveness by men, perhaps through a similar association with fertility. Here we extend these studies by investigating attractiveness judgments of both sexes and by contrasting attributions based on six different colors….Both red and black were associated with higher attractiveness judgments and had approximately equivalent effects. Importantly, we also detected significant clothing color-attractiveness associations even when clothing color was obscured from raters and when color was held constant by digital manipulation. These results suggest that clothing color has a psychological influence on wearers at least as much as on raters, and that this ultimately influences attractiveness judgments by others. Our results lend support for the idea that evolutionarily-derived color associations can bias interpersonal judgments, although these are limited neither to effects on raters nor to the color red.

“de gustibus, non disputandum est”—”There is no disputing about tastes” said Cicero. Why would red and black have an association of fertility that would assist in mating, or dominance that would help in sports? So red means dominance in sports and submission in mating? Red jerseys help teams win games? And wearing red helps men and women get game?

3. Correlated Male Preferences for Femininity in Female Faces and Voices

Sexually dimorphic physical traits are important for mate choice and mate preference in many species, including humans. Several previous studies have observed that women’s preferences for physical cues of male masculinity in different domains (e.g., visual and vocal) are correlated. These correlations demonstrate systematic, rather than arbitrary, variation in women’s preferences for masculine men and are consistent with the proposal that sexually dimorphic cues in different domains reflect a common underlying aspect of male quality. Here we present evidence for a similar correlation between men’s preferences for different cues of femininity in women; although men generally preferred feminized to masculinized versions of both women’s faces and voices, the strength of men’s preferences for feminized versions of female faces was positively and significantly correlated with the strength of their preferences for feminized versions of women’s voices.

So, the takeaway, is that men like women who actually look and sound like women……And those that like female voices, actually like female faces…….

4. Religious Belief: An Evolved Behavior, Book Review

Jay R. Feierman’s collection of essays, 15 in number, is a splendid effort to show how religion evolved and how it creates the identity of religious communities. It also explores the psychological mechanisms of religious belief. Four essays attend to the description of religious behavior, and four more to its adaptiveness. Three essays investigate the causes of religious behavior, and two describe the development of religious behavior in the individual. One essay, “The Evolutionary History of Behavior,” authored by Feierman, is his effort at a comprehensive perspective on religion. His evolution mechanism is (of course) natural selection. The key religious attribute is submission in the sense of Make-Thyself-Small, well illustrated by the Muslim prayer posture (pp. 76, 81). Prayer, he proposes, is the origin of religion (p. 81). Dominance and submission, Feierman notes, are a behavior expressed by widely across vertebrate and invertebrate species; hence they would have been well established in Homo sapiens prior to its specialization as prayer.

I go back and forth, quite honestly. Sometimes I find it humorous, and sometimes, I find it very sad that the human condition is being so distorted and clinicalized and emptied of humanity, and sometimes it just makes me angry, that the humans doing the experimenting act as if they are not themselves just as subject in every way to these “hidden evolutionary influences” in every aspect as they conclude everyone else is (which would include everything they think, even about there being hidden evolutionary influences). That’s what these studies are trying to uncover, aren’t they? The hidden influence which manifests itself in certain ways, such as jersey color and feminine voices and prayer posture resulting from dominance and submission and being a relative of invertebrates. In every instance above, and indeed in the whole endeavor of evolutionary psychology, what is studied is human behavior, and the results are then retro-fitted to a preconception of having a basis in evolution, followed by a story that attempts to link the results to some philosophy of what should occur in their bizarre philosophical evolutionary narrative.

Notice there is no such article like “Why Evolutionary Psychologists Always Except Their Own Beliefs and Thoughts From The Methodology They Subject Everyone Else To.

That, my friends, would be interesting reading.

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11 Responses to The Evolutionary Psychology Journal, Serious Entertainment

  1. You know, evolutionary psychologists take themselves (and their beliefs) very seriously. Do you think they know how hilarious some of their own stuff is?

  2. Notice there is no such article like “Why Evolutionary Psychologists Always Except Their Own Beliefs and Thoughts From The Methodology They Subject Everyone Else To.”

    EXCELLENT POINT!

    Evolutionists try to explain how religious belief evolved. I’d like to see them explain how their own beliefs evolved as well. For instance, why doesn’t someone write a book entitled Evolutionary Belief: An Evolved Behavior. The book would explore how evolutionary belief evolved to help alleviate people’s guilt and to grant them the freedom to live however they want to without worrying about any kind of post-death responsibility/retribution for their actions.

  3. What amuses me is that materialists of whatever stripe (that is, those who believe that all human behavior and experience is entirely reducible to electrochemical activity in the brain) never seem to realize that their very belief dooms any conclusions they come to about how the world works to irrelevance. There is simply no reason to believe anything a materialist brain produces, since its truth must be evaluated by that same or another brain, and no computer can ever discover a flaw in its own programming.

  4. I have emailed Dr. Shackelford, editor of the journal, and invited him to come and comment on this thread. He is a Professor and Chair of Psychology Director, Evolutionary Psychology Lab, at Oakland University,
    Department of Psychology. His website explains evolutionary psychology:

    “Evolutionary psychology is a hybrid discipline that draws insights from modern evolutionary theory, biology, cognitive psychology, anthropology, economics, computer science, and paleoarchaeology. The discipline rests on a foundation of core premises:

    1. Manifest behavior depends on underlying psychological mechanisms, information processing devices housed in the brain, in conjunction with the external and internal inputs that trigger their activation.

    2. Evolution by selection is the only known causal process capable of creating such complex organic mechanisms.

    3. Evolved psychological mechanisms are functionally specialized to solve adaptive problems that recurred for humans over deep evolutionary time.

    4. Selection designed the information processing of many evolved psychological mechanisms to be adaptively influenced by specific classes of information from the environment.

    5. Human psychology consists of a large number of functionally specialized evolved mechanisms, each sensitive to particular forms of contextual input, that get combined, coordinated, and integrated with each other to produce manifest behavior.”

  5. Ha!

    #2 is just precious. Nothing quite like assuming your conclusions.

    Echo

  6. I have emailed Dr. Shackelford, editor of the journal, and invited him to come and comment on this thread.

    That should be very interesting.

    Expect to hear that your critique of the above quoted studies, all quite modest in their claims, fails to grapple with the questions raised in the context of prior research, the methodologies used to address those questions, and the limited empirical findings reported.

    There are problems with these articles specifically and evolutionary psychology generally. But I don’t believe your critique meaningfully addresses them.

  7. I’m reminded of the story of the three blind men all trying to describe what they are touching when each is touching a different part of an elephant. They all touch a different part, and come to three conclusions, all different, and could not agree on what the elephant was really like. The story itself requires that there be someone who is not blind to know what the men were doing, and see the whole affair “from outside”. Otherwise, you would have the blind leading the blind, and no objective viewpoint to relate the story itself. It should be clear that evolutionary psychology cannot step out of its own viewpoint and methodology to see the whole. Everything that is observed and believed, literally everything, is subject to the same observation technique and method of explanation, and it is not from “outside”. When anything about human thought is explained through evolutionary psychology, then all human thought is (or should be) explained in the same way (despite their inconsistencies in applying this to themselves). There is no escape, no “outside” from where they can seek refuge. There is no place of solace, no separate and independent narrator who can claim a privileged position, no objective observer who can make declarations about other people, that wouldn’t also apply to himself. He sits on the branch and lays the axe to the trunk and begins chopping. Why the special pleading?

  8. Chunga Broca,

    I invited him here for that very reason, so we could have a more in depth discussion. What I actually expect to hear is nothing, but if he does come and respond, I expect to hear a deference to the works themselves, not actual and fresh explanations in plain language.

  9. They can believe whatever they like, I guess. We are electrochemical kludges, simply following the behaviors and patterns of what allowed our ancestors to survive and reproduce. Go for it, “Science”.

    Personally, I’ll stick with the obvious choice, that I actually do have a mind, I actually am conscious.

    I will play devil’s advocate for a second and try to imagine how they would argue that their belief in evolution simply evolved into being via NDE…

    …Humans evolved the ability to reason via certain selective pressures (insert stories — ERRR — journal articles here). Therefore, those that believe NDE made everything in biology are simply following the evidence in a reasonable fashion…

    And of course that same “evolved reasoning feature” does not apply to the rest of human behavior, especially religion. No, I don’t believe in Jesus as Christ because there is very good reason to believe he was alive 2,000 years ago, was crucified and then appeared to many witnesses 3 days later (among much other evidence)…it is because it was advantageous for the millions of years before that for our ancestors to be submissive that I am susceptible to believing in Jesus. No rationality involved, as opposed to the correct view, everything being created naturally.

  10. 2. Evolution by selection is the only known causal process capable of creating such complex organic mechanisms.

    What about intelligence? Oh yeah, that was an evolved kludge, so it still counts for evolution.

    Clive, I peruse evo psycho journals from time to time for the same reasons you listed, but in the end I usually end up just feeling like I do right now…speechless. Speechless that the academic community has accepted this ridiculous position. Just…unbelievable…

  11. Whelp, no response from the editor of the journal so far. No email response, and no comments on this blog. I’ll give him some more time, maybe he’s too busy.

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