Home » Intelligent Design » Evolutionary psychology: So they really DON’T believe all that rot?

Evolutionary psychology: So they really DON’T believe all that rot?

I’ve been trying for years, to get hold of some evidence that anyone at all who thinks Darwinian evolution plausible actually stops short of the Big Bazooms theory of human evolution – something so completely ridiculous that no one who takes it seriously can be considered a contributor to rational thought.

Apparently, some do stop short. And nice to know, for sanity’s sake.

In “On Second Thought … Scientists are supposed to change their minds when evidence undercuts their views. Dream on” (January 3, 2009), Newsweek’s Sharon Begley, co-author of The Mind and the Brain, spills the beans (as if we hadn’t seen them spilled all over the floor a long time ago – but never mind):

The most fascinating backpedaling is by scientists who have long pushed
evolutionary psychology. This field holds that we all carry genes that led to reproductive success in the Stone Age, and that as a result men are genetically driven to be promiscuous and women to be coy, that men have a biological disposition to rape and to kill mates who cheat on them, and that every human behavior is “adaptive”—that is, helpful to reproduction. But as Harvard biologist Marc Hauser now concedes, evidence is “sorely missing” that language, morals and many other human behaviors exist because they help us mate and reproduce. And Steven Pinker, one of evo-psych’s most prominent popularizers, now admits that many human genes are changing more quickly than anyone imagined. If genes that affect brain function and therefore behavior are also evolving quickly, then we do not have the Stone Age brains that evo-psych supposes, and the field “may have to reconsider the simplifying assumption that biological evolution was pretty much over” 50,000 years ago, Pinker says. How has the view that reproduction is all, and that humans are just cavemen with better haircuts, hung on so long? “Even in science,” says neuroscientist Roger Bingham of the University of California, San Diego, “a seductive story will sometimes … outpace the data.” And withstand it, too.

Well, it’s reassuring that some people are beginning to rethink this idiocy. As I have often pointed out, it’s all part of what we know that ain’t so. To the extent that anyone takes it seriously, it can do serious harm.

Look, let me be clear about this: There is stuff in brain science that really is so.

A blood clot could indeed kill or paralyse you. You could develop a tumour that is difficult to excise. Alzheimer is a late life illness you can fight off only by the most stringent measures, and even then you may lose the battle. But that is what’s true, and no one can deny it.

The evolutionary pyschologists’s “cave men with better haircuts” is just a time-waster in a world where serious neuroscience issues must be addressed.

Hat tip: Brains on Purpose.

Also, just up at The Mindful Hack, my blog that supports The Spiritual Brain:

Audio: Interview with Denyse O’Leary on new discoveries in human consciousness

Who do voodoo? They do! Social neuroscientists, that is …

Coffee break: Language embedded in language

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

10 Responses to Evolutionary psychology: So they really DON’T believe all that rot?

  1. This video may interest you:

    Applied Evolutionary Psychology

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkOLAXqExQg

  2. Personally, I don’t think most of the evolutionary psychology efforts were ever meant to do much heavy lifting academically. They really seem, in effect, to be writing secular creation myths.

  3. The thing that intrigues me is that in all Darwinian speculating, whether bio or psycho, no one ever asks the hard questions, like: How did the particular trait that offers a survival advantage originate? What mutations or random genetic accidents would be required to engineer the trait? What is the probability of these accidents occurring? How many individuals and reproductive events would be required for the trait to be selected and preserved in the population? In other words, could the probabilistic resources have been up to the task of overcoming the improbabilities?

    We are asked to believe that with at most a few million individuals and a few hundred thousand generations, the brain of a primitive simian ancestor was magically transformed by random genetic errors into that of Newton, Beethoven, and Fermat. In what other field of “science” would such speculative nonsense be taken seriously? And why do academicians in the hard sciences almost never challenge their evolutionary-theorist colleagues with any of these questions?

  4. If genes that affect brain function and therefore behavior are also evolving quickly, then we do not have the Stone Age brains that evo-psych supposes, and the field “may have to reconsider the simplifying assumption that biological evolution was pretty much over” 50,000 years ago, Pinker says.

    So the suggestion here is that humans may have been a lot different 50,000 years ago than previously thought, because genes change at a much quicker pace. However, I really doubt they’d be much different then humans today. In fact, they might have been, at least, more physically healthy, and perhaps more intelligence (but lacked the resources of hundreds of years of scientific and technological resources).

    On the whole idea of evolutionary psychology:
    Whenever I think that evolutionists may be successfully, or have certain potential, in some of their stories I often remember the “peacock myth.” That is, the idea that peacocks have such beautiful feathers because they help attract mates. It makes logical sense, but is complete nonsense (at least, as far as I know, based on the stories you’ve given Denyse). Makes me really doubt a whole slew of their outlandish stories, like that we evolved morals because it was a survival advantage. Sure, often times it does provide a survival advantage, but there’s no reason to rightly suggest it happened on accident.

  5. GilDodgen,

    Nice post! I was just thinking, while I was reading it: imagine an animal without an emotion! Obviously, if animals at one point didn’t have emotions, they must have evolved on accident. So you know, we have these emotionless creatures, but then, for some reason, one of them gets born with a mutation that grants him slight feelings of anger, or sadness, or happiness etc. And of course, they were obviously a survival hit! I donno, it seemed like a weird thought. Probably because it is.

    I’ve also thought about something else before, but perhaps it remains on topic. How was it that the first cell evolved the “will” to eat? What did it eat anyway? And why in the world can anybody assume that the first life would necessarily have the abilities to survive, by eating, digesting, disposing wastes etc.? It seems to me, that unless somebody could think of a possible way you could get each of these, step by step, then the first cell, no matter how primitive, had to have all of these traits along with reproduction when life first started. But if a cell, by any means of its creation (say by chance) necessitates these features, then it seems that these features are built into the very fabric of the universe. That is, the universe was designed for life, at least, of the first cell.

    Think of it like a video game. If I was playing a video game, and I noticed when certain chemicals (within the game) aligned with each other just right, they produced organisms that could eat, digest, dispose of wastes, and reproduce, I wouldn’t suggest it was a glitch in the game. I would definitely think that the programmers designed this feature into the game itself. Similarly, if specific chemicals can (at least supposedly by chance) create life, which has the above features, why should I attribute it to a “glitch of nature,” if you will? I don’t think I should. It seems very much to me, that even if life could arise by chance, the very “information” or “concept” of the cell was built into nature.

    Hopefully you could follow that! :-)

  6. Domoman,

    I like your post(5).
    The last part is very interesting because it shows the meaning of the fine tuning argument. I always thought about the hypothetical situation if millers experiment did indeed show it was very easy to construct the basic parts for life. The only thing this would prove is that the basic parts for life are chemically stable and can exist in nature. If you ask: “why?” then the fine tuning argument comes along.

    The middle part is also great. I can only add: “why would the first live reproduce?”. The only way of explaining this evolutionary is more extrapolating(crystals etc.).

    Finally the first part. How did emotion originate? Where did (brilliant) instincts come from? Again evolution can only speculate about changing of existing structures, but not the arrival of them.

    I think evolutionary psychology confuses the purpose of emotion and consciousness with the way it is explainable with evolution. Take for instance fear. Evolutionary psychology will try explaining this with a higher chance of survival. But they will never try an experiment which proves this fact or will show the arrival of such emotion.

  7. GilDodgen @ 3

    We are asked to believe that with at most a few million individuals and a few hundred thousand generations, the brain of a primitive simian ancestor was magically transformed by random genetic errors into that of Newton, Beethoven, and Fermat. In what other field of “science” would such speculative nonsense be taken seriously? And why do academicians in the hard sciences almost never challenge their evolutionary-theorist colleagues with any of these questions?

    Speculation in science is not a bad thing per se provided it is not claiming to be anything more. If speculation or even inference from minimal evidence is presented as established fact then of course it should be challenged.

    There are a several points that occur to me, though.

    First, the basic ‘design’ of the anthropoid brain is so powerful and flexible that it is not so hard to imagine it evolving into that of an Einstein.

    Second, if it was designed, are we assuming the Designer simultaneously created all these variants that differ to greater or lesser degrees? That seems to be a wasteful duplication of effort compared to creating one versatile ‘design’ that could be adapted – or even allowed to evolve – for a number of purposes.

    Third, while I have no problem with the possibility of an advanced alien intelligence interfering with life on Earth, it is still vulnerable to the old objection that it doesn’t tell us where and how they – and, hence, life itself – originated. It just pushes the question back one step.

    Fourth, while the burden of proof for persuading us that life evolved in this way rests with the biological community, the argument from incredulity is not an effective counter. Our inability to imagine, let alone provide a detailed description, at this time of how it might have happened is not, in itself, evidence that it could not have happened.

  8. O’Leary, here is what I think you’re driving at:

    1) Paleo-Psychology is not science
    2) So let us not treat it as sci
    3) Let us treat it on its own terms
    Which are juvenile meta-terms

    We should be asking questions such as:

    What sort of “scientist” predicates the development of civilization on man’s attraction to large breasts?

    The valid answer, invariably: a male “scientist” with a lot of time on his hands.

  9. Seversky: …the argument from incredulity is not an effective counter.

    It’s not an argument from incredulity, it’s an argument from mathematics, in particular, combinatorics and probability theory.

    I discuss this with an illustration here.

  10. I often read that ‘just because you can’t imagine it, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened.’ That’s quite true. But it subtly changes the terms of the exploration. The objective is no longer to discover it, but to imagine it.

Leave a Reply