Re: Underestimating evolutionary psychology

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Thu Jun 17 2004 - 20:29:01 MDT

On Jun 17, 2004, at 6:30 AM, Marc Geddes wrote:

> The internal sense of morality is of course influenced
> by evolution, but is not solely a product of it. That
> is, you couldn't take knowledge about biological
> evolution and use it to fully predict what humans
> believe. The environment, culture, memes etc will all
> play a role.

To say that morality is `influenced' by evolution is like to say that a
falling rock is `influenced' by gravity. It might be true, but it
eliminates all explanation of what's going on. The only reason we can
even talk about falling rocks is because of gravity. Similarly, the
only reason we can talk about morality is because during evolutionary
history a certain sense of desirability lead to greater reproductive
success than no sense of desirable behavior. And the only reason we
can talk about talking about morality is because an evolutionary
adaptation at some point in human evolutionary history allowed humans
to think about their own behavior and think about why some behaviors
might be more desirable than others. Like everything with humans,
evolution didn't just `influence' it; evolution made it possible!

As far as environment `playing a role', it's well established that
environment molds the behaviors of a particular organism *within* the
framework of its evolved adaptations, so again, `playing a role' is
understating things. In fact, I'd argue that there is no separation
between environment and evolution---it's all evolution!

> I never said that memes and feedback were evidence
> against evolutionary psychology. What I said was that
> evolutionary psychology is simply insufficient as an
> explanation of human behaviour. Knowledge from
> biological evolution is insufficient to obtain a full
> understanding of human psychology.

Again, I think your creating a nature/nurture division, but calling it
evolution/environment. It's all the same story and there's little
reason to pull it apart. The only place I see to meaningfully make a
division is between ancestral environment (the EEA of a species) and
the current environment as it may differ from the ancestral
environment. If there's no difference, we have little to get excited
about. If there is a difference, as is certainly the case with humans,
then something interesting may happen, again as is the case with
humans. But regardless of a difference between the environment now and
then, evolutionary psychology is still able to provide a complete
explanation because, remember, evolutionary psychology would otherwise
be known just as psychology today if the Darwinian revolution had hit
that field 50 years ago. Evolutionary psychology encompasses all of
psychology, but from an evolutionary perspective.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
                Gordon Worley
             Phone: 352-875-5808
e-mail: PGP: 0xBBD3B003

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