Paper contends high aims of evolutionary psychology (probably) aren't possible


EXCERPT: Evolutionary psychologists want to tell us about patterns in human psychology; our ways of “thinking” and therefore behaving with respect to certain stimuli—choosing whom to mate with, engaging in xenophobia, extending other-regard to kin, and much, much more. This work is inference-making and extrapolating. It too is supposed to be a window into evolutionary processes.

In both of these domains, researchers aim to understand the forces that shape us, contemporary humans, and those that shaped our ancient ancestors. Underlying all of this is a kind of bio-historical document, our DNA, and what is said to be “written” on it.

[...] To my mind, evolutionary psychologists have not shown that there are specific psychological programs that are written in our bio-historical document. In my recent paper “Is Evolutionary Psychology Possible?”, published in the journal Biological Theory, I argue that it is not possible to give true evolutionary explanations of contemporary human behavior. The focus of my argument is that there is a matching problem at the core of evolutionary psychology that is irresolvable and thus renders the project impossible to execute.

[...] The view from evolutionary psychology is that such psychological programs did not just aid our ancestors and then disappear. [...] The mandate of evolutionary psychology is to give true evolutionary explanations for contemporary human behavior. [...] Evolutionary psychological inferences can succeed only if it is possible to determine that particular kinds of behavior are caused by particular psychological structures.

[...] For a present-day psychological trait to be related to an ancestral psychological trait in the way that evolutionary psychology requires, the present-day trait must be of the same kind as the ancestral one. [...] Ancestral and present-day psychological structures have to match in the way that is needed for evolutionary psychological inferences to succeed. [...] It’s not sufficient to assume that the required identities are obvious. They need to be demonstrated. Solving the matching problem requires knowing about the psychological architecture of our prehistoric ancestors. But it is difficult to see how this knowledge can possibly be acquired. We do not, and very probably cannot, know much about the prehistoric human mind.

[...] I have shown that there are obstacles to demonstrating that present-day behaviors are outputs of the kinds of evolved psychological structures proposed by evolutionary psychology. Even if these obstacles could be surmounted, the problem remains of identifying these behaviors with particular kinds of behavior that are hypothesized to have existed in prehistory. Psychological structures can be individuated only by the behaviors that they produce, so it follows that their individuation depends upon the individuation of behaviors.

[...] Some readers might think that I am holding evolutionary psychology to a much higher epistemic standard than is normal in evolutionary biological sciences. But this is not the case. Evolutionary psychological inferences commonly fail to satisfy reasonable epistemic criteria. When making evolutionary inferences about paradigmatically biological traits, biologists use experimental manipulations, comparative methods, the fossil record, and optimality models to determine that selection has taken place and that the items under consideration have retained their selected-for functions. (MORE - details)
Straw man. Evolutionary psychology isn't biology. It has no need to show a biological means when it's aim is to show psychological similarity. Presumptions about psychology corresponding to physiology is the author's own bias.

Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  7 misconceptions about evolutionary psychology + *Crazy cat ladies* are not a thing C C 1 78 Aug 21, 2019 11:46 PM
Last Post: Syne
  Humans aren’t designed to be happy – so stop trying C C 15 392 Jul 27, 2019 02:22 AM
Last Post: Seattle

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)