Home » Evolutionary psychology » Evolutionary psychology: Pseudo-science’s biggest academic racket takes a hit?

Evolutionary psychology: Pseudo-science’s biggest academic racket takes a hit?

Well, see here:

The professor has not admitted wrongdoing, but he did issue a statement apologizing for making “significant mistakes.” And beyond his own immediate career difficulties, Mr. Hauser’s difficulties spell trouble for one of the trendiest fields in academia—evolutionary psychology.

Mr. Hauser has been at the forefront of a movement to show that our morals are survival instincts evolved over the millennia. When Mr. Hauser’s 2006 book “Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong” was published, evolutionary psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker proclaimed that his Harvard colleague was engaged in “one of the hottest new topics in intellectual life: The psychology and biology of morals.”

[ ... ]

Not so long ago, the initial bloom already was off evolutionary psychology. The field earned a bad name by appearing to justify all sorts of nasty, rapacious behaviors, including rape, as successful strategies for Darwinian competition. But the second wave of the discipline solved that PR problem by discovering that evolution favored those with a more progressive outlook. Mr. Hauser has been among those positing that our ancestors survived not by being ruthlessly selfish, but by cooperating, a legacy ingrained in our moral intuitions.

This progressive sort of evolutionary psychology is often in the news. NPR offered an example this week with a story titled “Teary-Eyed Evolution: Crying Serves a Purpose. ” According to NPR, “Scientists who study evolution say crying probably conferred some benefit and did something to advance our species.”

Yes, well, I cried a river for you people, now you cry one for me, or else go do something I’d be proud of. I prefer the latter.

Essentially, the one thing we don’t have about most of our remote ancestors is detailed information. Evolutionary psychology makes about as much sense as speculating about the people down the street. Except that, if I did it, they are not dead, so they can correct any nonsense I was telling everyone about them. Our remote ancestors are not so lucky, hence the basis of a tax mooch “evolutionary psychology” industry.

The fact is that monkeys and humans do not behave similarly in key ways, as should be obvious. Otherwise, why are they in our zoos and we are not in theirs?

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

3 Responses to Evolutionary psychology: Pseudo-science’s biggest academic racket takes a hit?

  1. I guess the assumption is under natural selection that because we are here, we have survived, and that all of the properties, characteristics and behaviors we possess must have helped us survive, or we wouldn’t have them. So robbing banks, raping, murdering, giving to the poor, laughing, crying, raging, throwing parties, believing in the tooth fairy and dressing up for Halloween must have all in some sense helped us survive. Does anyone know of a trait we once possessed that didn’t help us survive?

  2. I think it’s rather ironic that this guy who tried to write a book about ethics (moral minds) has indulged in such blatant intellectual dishonesty. But I suppose that is acceptable in the pseudo-science of evo psych. After all, how else will they support all those darwinian fairytales?
    I actually read through his book and to say that it amounts to anything more that pure speculation, flawed logic and a desperate attempt to hijack chompsky’s model would be overtly generous. I think the fact that even Richard rotry (in his NY times review) found his claims to be vacuous and unconvincing speaks volumes!

  3. -”Does anyone know of a trait we once possessed that didn’t help us survive?”

    That is a problem I also noticed about NS and its inherent circularity of logic. A theory that claims to explain everything essentially explains nothing.

Leave a Reply