Re: Underestimating evolutionary psychology

From: Marc Geddes (
Date: Thu Jun 17 2004 - 04:30:36 MDT

--- Gordon Worley <> wrote: >
> Conversely, I think you underestimate it. You
> cannot talk about human
> psychology without talking about the evolutionary
> process that created
> it (well, you can, but you can also be wrong). The
> human mind is a
> huge mystery until you look at it from an
> evolutionary perspective, but
> evolution lets you tear it apart and understand why
> the human mind
> works the way it does. We don't understand
> everything and sometimes
> theories are revised (this is science, after all),
> but the important
> insight remains that humans and their brains are
> products of an
> evolutionary process and are shaped by that process.


> > behaviour. What is natural is not neccesserily
> good!
> Of course not, but this misses the point. When we
> talk about moral
> behavior in humans, we talk about behavior that the
> human believes is
> good or bad. It makes no difference whether there
> is external morality
> or not; the human decides based on an internal sense
> of morality, which
> is, incidentally, a product of human evolution. It
> should be
> unsurprising that behaviors humans believe to be
> good benefitted the
> reproduction of genes carrying the genotype leading
> to such beliefs and
> that behaviors humans believe to be bad hurt
> reproduction of genes
> carrying the genotype leading to such beliefs,
> because good and bad
> are, inside the human mind, just another way of
> talking about desirable
> and undesirable. The confusion comes when trying to
> prescribe external
> morality to humans or prescribe one human's morality
> onto another human
> (thus we get the idea of an evil scientist).

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.

> Human brains are information processing mechanisms,
> so why do you
> suppose that memes and feedback are evidence against
> evolutionary
> psychology? Memes and feedback are both products of
> evolution of the
> human brain, so just because there may not currently
> be any
> explanations of these topics in evolutionary
> psychology (and I doubt
> either of us are well enough read in the literature
> to be sure of
> that), that does not mean they are evidence against
> evolutionary
> psychology. For something to be evidence against
> evolutionary
> psychology, it must either be evidence against
> evolution or evidence
> against evolution being the process that created the
> human brain (like
> proof that aliens visited earth and arbitrarily
> changed all of humanity
> by design). A lack of current explanation of how a
> particular
> psychological phenotype evolved does not a case
> against evolutionary
> psychology make; only a further research question
> does it create.
> -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
> Gordon Worley
> Phone: 352-875-5808
> e-mail: PGP: 0xBBD3B003
> Web:

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.

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