[FRIAM] the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology?

Nick Thompson nickthompson at earthlink.net
Fri Feb 23 10:12:18 EST 2018


I think one is an evolutionary psychologist if and only if one thinks that knowledge of human evolutionary history has something to contribute to our understanding of contemporary human behavior.  So, yes, you may call me an evolutionary psychologist.  My guess is that, on that definition, so are you.  

If I am correct about all of that, the rest is details.  Very important and interesting details, mind you, but details, all the same. 

And, yes, I do keep ducking your specific references to Petersen.   Which is to say, I guess, that I am stipulating that there is a lot of stupid evolutionary psychology out there.  My interest is in answering the question, When is it NOT stupid.  After all, we are talking about a field which claims to explain things that happen today in terms of things that happened 150 THOUSAND years ago.  On their face, such claims would seem tenuous, particularly if we take them as CAUSAL claims.  And what other kind of claims to increased understanding are there?  


Nicholas S. Thompson
Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Biology
Clark University

-----Original Message-----
From: Friam [mailto:friam-bounces at redfish.com] On Behalf Of glen
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2018 7:28 AM
To: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group <friam at redfish.com>
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology?

OK. So if you're not sure how to make a case *like* the one Peterson makes, and I'm allowed to call you an evolutionary psychologist, then I can say, at least, Peterson's argument is unjustified. ... or at least not well enough justified, even in the domain in which he works.

 Combined with finer grained arguments like those presented by Dave, it leaves Peterson's case pretty weak, albeit not as weak as I thought.

On February 22, 2018 8:56:38 PM PST, Nick Thompson <nickthompson at earthlink.net> wrote:
>Some consequences of this formulation are: 
>1.       Simultaneous events (such as amygdala excitation and anger)
>canNOT be causes of one another. 
>2.       The notion of cause and effect as we deploy it in ordinary
>language is a category error.  No single event can ever said to be 
>either a cause or an effect of another single event.
>3.       The very notion of causality as applied to ANY historical
>science – history, evolution, history of the universe, etc., is placed
>in question.   I don’t know where that argument comes out.  I would
>like to be able to say things like , “The physical and behavioral 
>dimorphisms observed in the human species are to some degree the result 
>of differential selection upon the two sexes,” but I am not sure how I 

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