Saturday, September 3, 2011

Evolutionary biology is shedding evolutionary psychology

It's like the end of smallpox. 

From Discover:
The end of evolutionary psychology

A new paper in PLoS Biology is rather like the last person to leave turning the light off. Evolutionary psychology as we understood it in the 1980s and 1990s is over. Darwin in Mind: New Opportunities for Evolutionary Psychology:
None of the aforementioned scientific developments render evolutionary psychology unfeasible; they merely require that EP should change its daily practice. The key concepts of EP have led to a series of widely held assumptions (e.g., that human behaviour is unlikely to be adaptive in modern environments, that cognition is domain-specific, that there is a universal human nature), which with the benefit of hindsight we now know to be questionable. A modern EP would embrace a broader, more open, and multi-disciplinary theoretical framework, drawing on, rather than being isolated from, the full repertoire of knowledge and tools available in adjacent disciplines. Such a field would embrace the challenge of exploring empirically, for instance, to what extent human cognition is domain-general or domain specific, under what circumstances human behaviour is adaptive, how best to explain variation in human behaviour and cognition. The evidence from adjacent disciplines suggests that, if EP can reconsider its basic tenets, it will flourish as a scientific discipline.
Translation: 'we need to scrap this hoax and restore some pretense of science.'

By “evolutionary psychology” the authors are not addressing a field just at the intersection of evolutionary biology and psychology. Rather, they’re speaking to the group of scholars who came to the fore in the 1990s under the leadership of Leda Cosmides and John Toobey as UCSB. These thinkers adhered to a specific set of parameters outlined above in regards to the basic theoretical framework of evolution and cognition through which their empirical research was framed. I can not speak to the cognitive psychology, the presumed massive modularity for example, but it does seem that their assumptions about human evolutionary history are a touch antiquated.
Evolutionary psychology is merely the application of evolutionary biology 'logic' to psychology. Stuff changes, survivors survive.  Junk science.

Evolutionary psychology's assumptions about human evolutionary history aren't "antiquated". Its methodological assumptions are too similar to those of evolutionary biology, and its becoming an embarrassment to the atheist coven.

People are starting to notice. Time to cut it loose.
Sometimes I wonder if this might be a feature and not a bug. I’ve been told personally by two people who knew the goings on at the UT Austin evolutionary psychology program that there wasn’t much emphasis on keeping up to date on the most recent work in evolutionary or genetic science (or at least there wasn’t in the mid-2000s, which is when my sources were familiar with the state of the research being done). The impression I received is that that would just muddy the waters and weaken the theoretical basis of the research program.
 Fact-free storytelling is a feature, not a bug, of the whole Darwinian project.
But sometimes the bedrock needs to be shaken up. It seems that time is upon us. From what I can gather evolutionary psychology was very much a response to the sociobiology controversies of the 1970s. On the one hand there was a real scientific distinction. Many of the sociobiologists were fundamentally biologists dabbling in social theory, while evolutionary psychology was more often dominated by social scientists who took biology seriously. But the reality is that sociobiology by 1980 had a major public relations problem...

That damned Eichmann ruined sociobiology for everyone.
The evolutionary psychology paradigm was more constrained and tightly focused, and its emphasis on human universals helped it mollify somewhat the charges of ‘genetic determinism.’ After all, genetic determinism is a lot less threatening when it is proposing theses which one finds appealing and praiseworthy. 
'Positive eugenics' has a nicer ring.

 At this point talking about the “Paleolithic Mind” and the “environment of evolutionary adaptedness” seems quaint.

It seemed quaint in the 1970's too. Was b.s., is b.s.
One must be cautious, knowing that a genomic region may have been the target of powerful selective forces within the last ~10,000 years does not usually transparently tell us exactly the functional fitness rationale for that adaptive event. 
 No matter. Just make up a story. This is evolution, after all.
The letter of Toobey and Cosmide’s paradigm will be brutally violated in the coming decades. That’s science, the smasher of idols.

This idol was created by science. It's not being "smashed" because it has been 'found to be wrong'.  How could 'stuff changes and survivors survive' be wrong?

Evolutionary psychology is being smashed because it's being understood by too many people, and it is an embarrassment to the atheist cult that is trying desperately to conceal the junk science at Darwinism's core.

Darwinism is layers of wrapped nonsense. Banality and tautology, all the way down. Evolutionary biology is shedding evolutionary psychology, like a snake sheds skin.


  1. Could it really be?
    To be frank, I am (almost) surprised such a crazy, half baked philosophy has ever been given so much attention. Only in this era of plenty.
    Anyway... The way I see it is that when EP is put to the task (test?) of reformation, it will be too inflexible and rigid in it's materialist dogma to properly interact and adapt (gene swap?) with other disciplines. EP will be unable to accept the various forms of dualism and non-material explanations for the 'human universals', or 'human nature'.
    The best thing that could happen is that it shed's it's 'evolutionary' title completely and it's adherents move on to more sane and immediately useful studies of the mind. Or perhaps even in other fields. Some of them may be happier researching material sciences - hands on stuff.
    Obviously, if EP allows for and is open to ideas from 'other disciplines' within the field of psychology, it will have to also drop the hard materialist bent. So at what point does it cease to become an aspect of that particular monism (me so punny) and leave the Atheistic camp...or does it simply dissipate like a mist as it's adherents scatter as above?
    Could this be the end of the EP phenomena?
    We'll see.
    But hey, they are determinists to a fault, and must therefore reason( how?) that all this was just meant to be this way;just so.
    Bummer, EP.
    Oh well.
    Sh!t happens.

  2. crus:

    I think that EP is being shuffled out the door ASAP, like the crazy uncle who ruins the party.

    Darwinists are in a panic that their scam is up, and EP is too easy a target. They fear that people will realize that EP and RM+NS are more or less the same theory.

    It's harder to disguise the stupidity of EP. Time to cut bait and move on.

  3. This demonstrates the beauty of science. Science has been so successful in increasing human knowledge precisely because it constantly challenges itself to provide better, more accurate, explanations. Having to modify or abandon certain assumptions in a subdisipline is evidence of progress. Undoubtedly new hypothesis will arise with their own set of assumptions and predictions; they in turn will also undergo scrutiny.

    Darwinists aren’t in pa panic. This is business as usual in science.


  4. Mike,
    I agree, that does seem to be what is happening more and more.
    I find it remarkable that these materialist/atheist folks argue all the time there is no 'religion' or 'belief system' etc , but rather a LACK of one in their worldview...and still we see these different facets/aspects combine to make a distinct philosophy.
    They have, quite obviously, begun with a HARD materialist (ie monistic) series of assumptions and attempt to force the facts to fit. Their BELIEFS.
    EP is their attempt to explain the MIND with material causes, in order to fit in with their beliefs.
    It has failed miserably and, as you note, makes a far too easy 'target'.
    So far mathematics, philosophy, physics, and now biology have been a bust for the materialist creeds and Atheism in general...I wonder what their NEXT 'big' thing will be? I suspect they will attempt to hijack any study of potential alien/existential life into proving some materialist/atheist 'theory', but I guess we will just have to wait for that!

  5. Anon/KW wrote
    "This demonstrates the beauty of science"
    Beauty? Something that only exists in the mind (scientific methodology), and cannot be held, weighed, touched, or smelled...and it is 'beautiful'? What a very immaterial position for an Atheist to take.
    I have never seen science, herself. To be honest, and with no disrepect intended - I don't think she exists. Santa seems far more plausible and...well...he isn't a real perosn either (sorry Oleg).
    I have only ever Scientists. Some of them are beautiful, physically and mentally - many are not. Many are self serving, career oriented, ugly, and misanthropic. So... HUMAN. Nothing like the divine and beautiful science you describe.
    But I think I know what you mean, KW.
    You see the ability of 'science' (Blessed be her Name) to adapt herself into new roles and a 'beautiful' ability. You admire it.
    I would respectfully suggest, that is not a mythical sentient 'science' that adapts, but rather the scientists within the CULTURES they have been allowed to flourish in. Mainly, in our epoch, that has been the Christian (and Theist in general) culture.
    When those 'controls' are removed, and 'science' is deified...we end up with some really nasty stuff.

  6. Darwinists aren’t in pa panic. This is business as usual in science.

    Darwinism is not science; it's a poor form of religion.

    It is based on the belief that things happen by themselves and are their own causes and that scientific evidence can be interpreted any which way one desires to fit in a materialistic worldview.

    So, of course, it’s business as usual!

  7. @anon/KW:

    [This demonstrates the beauty of science. Science has been so successful in increasing human knowledge precisely because it constantly challenges itself to provide better, more accurate, explanations. Having to modify or abandon certain assumptions in a subdisipline is evidence of progress. Undoubtedly new hypothesis will arise with their own set of assumptions and predictions; they in turn will also undergo scrutiny.]

    So you support teaching the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinism in public schools?

    [Darwinists aren’t in pa panic. This is business as usual in science.]

    Nope. They've just come to see the banality of the application of their theory to psychology. Getting closer to seeing the banality of their theory to biology...


  8. “So you support teaching the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinism in public schools?”

    Absolutely, right along side the strengths and weakness of creationism.


  9. As some atheist commenters of this blog would say, here I go quote mining again.

    The following is from Uncommon Descent regarding evolutionary psychology.

    Actually, Aunger, to his credit, has begun to alert the world to the silliness virus that has afflicted evolutionary psychology, which Mario Beauregard and I outline in The Spiritual Brain.

    Primo, my university professors taught me that quoting was as important as publishing.

    Secondo, I recommend The Spiritual Brain to anyone who seeks the truth with an open mind.

    Tertio, I agree with Doctor Egnor that evolutionary biology will eventually suffer the same fate.

    Quatro, the whole darn… Darwinian evolution shebang with be dead in the water by 2020!

    As a famous US President once said:

    You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.

    And you cannot fool Mom!

  10. Michael,

    Did you actually read the original article in PLoS or just the review in Discover?

    It might be due to my iPad, but you don't seem to have provided a link to the article (although it was very easy to find) and that article provided a link to the original article too.

    I've read the original article, and it seems worth reading again. It is a review article, with no original work, but it appears completely reasonable. The authors just note that the original paradigms of evolutionary psychology were proposed in the '80s and since then there has been an explosion of knowledge, so the paradigms need to be reexamined.

    That's just the way science works. It is always seeking to find better theories to explain the natural world. Nothing in science is set in stone. There is no 100% certainty. There's no such thing as authority of revelation in science. It's based on evidence.

    For you as a neurosurgeon I expect that you realize that the neurosurgical procedures you're doing today may in 10 years be realized to be not best practice. On my first day in university, two lecturers told my first year medical class that half of what they were going to teach us in the 6 year medical course would turn out to be wrong, and that they don't know which half that is.

    Does that mean we should abandon medical science as hopeless, and return to the days of leeches (useful though they are in limited cases)?

  11. @bachfiend:

    I just read the review in Discover.

    EP has long been an embarrassment to evolutionary biology. They've been trying to figure out a way to stuff it for a while. The problem they have is that EP depends critically on a Darwinian approach.

    Most people can't discern that Darwinism in biology is b.s. because the terminology is intimidating, but the b.s. is EP is more obvious.

    The fall of EP is the beginning of the fall of the Darwinian paradigm.

  12. Michael,

    Then you need to read the original article, because the review doesn't accurately reflect the original article.

    You wouldn't trust a review of a single author concerning a new neurosurgical procedure. You'd want to go and look at the documentation of the originators and even then you wouldn't accept it immediately. You'd want to examine the evidence very carefully.

    You're just engaging in hearsay, very bad practice.

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  14. @Mike and Bach,
    The only difference I can detect (articles) is on the spin. The subject matter is the same: EP is in need of a general RETHINK. The Cardinals have ordered their Bishops in for a 'talk'. EP is fast becoming an evolutionary Heresy.
    Having skimmed and now read both, it seems to me Dr Egnor's original observation stands, as does his reasoning for it.
    Bach wrote:
    " ...evolutionary psychology were proposed in the '80s and since then there has been an explosion of knowledge, so the paradigms need to be reexamined."
    They sure do. And what happens when the paradigms of a discipline change? For example what happened to 'Spontaneous Generation'? Re branding? Or will 'science' correct it and replace it with a more sane approach?
    Sorry to put it this way, but your response comes off as very naive, Bach.