Creationism Darwinism Evolutionary psychology

Creationism is EVERYWHERE you look now…

Spread the love

Even in the study of the emotions:

A reader lobs this in:

Abstract: Recent quantitative studies have advanced emotions research substantially, but they have done little to resolve enduring large-scale controversies. This article suggests that tacit creationism is at the root of the problem. Envisioning emotions as aspects of a designed machine encourages searching for answers of a kind that do not exist. The quest for the Holy Grail of agreement on the number, nature, and functions of emotions is futile because the emotions are aspects of organically complex systems whose structures and functions are radically different from those of machines. A fully evolutionary foundation for emotions research discourages hopes for simple elegant models but it can nonetheless advance research by dispelling misconceptions and suggesting new questions.

Randolph M. Nesse, “Tacit Creationism in Emotion Research” at The Center for Evolution and Medicine, Arizona State University

From the paper:

This article argues that progress in emotions research has been slowed by tacit creationism. By tacit creationism I mean viewing organisms as if they are products of design, without attributing the design to a deity. Few scientists attribute the characteristics of organisms to a supernatural power, but many nonetheless view organisms as if they were designed machines. Organisms are, however, different from machines in several crucial ways.

Randolph M. Nesse, “Tacit Creationism in Emotion Research” at The Center for Evolution and Medicine, Arizona State University

Thinking about emotions as if they were products of design encourages searching for a specific number of emotions with distinct boundaries and specific functions, as if they were parts of a machine. However, because emotions are products of natural selection, we should instead expect many states with indistinct boundaries and multiple functions. The desire for a simple taxonomy of emotions is deep, but such proposals necessarily provide a false sharpening that distorts our view. The system is not only more complex than we would like it to be, it is organically complex in ways that make it difficult to describe.

Randolph M. Nesse, “Tacit Creationism in Emotion Research” at The Center for Evolution and Medicine, Arizona State University

Thinking about bodies and minds as designed machines is natural, but it reflects a tacit creationism that fosters major misconceptions that obstruct progress in emotions research. These misconceptions are not universal among emotions researchers, and they are fading as evolutionary perspectives are coming to be accepted as essential. However, embracing a fully evolutionary view of emotions will not be fast or easy. We especially love science when it provides simple generalizations that explain otherwise complex phenomena, for instance, the laws of gravity. Simple principles can make prediction and control possible. Discovering an underlying simple reality can also arouse pleasure and awe. Confronting the organically complex reality of biological systems can arouse very different responses. One that has been prevalent in emotions research is to persist in trying to describe the system as if it were a simple product of design. The result is frustration and controversy as different schemas compete without a clear way to adjudicate their claims. The other response is to acknowledge that organically complex systems do not have the kinds of simple structures and functions we crave. This arouses disappointment (Nesse, 2014). However, it also can relieve the frustration of looking for what does not exist, and it can open up opportunities to ask new questions with new kinds of answers.

Randolph M. Nesse, “Tacit Creationism in Emotion Research” at The Center for Evolution and Medicine, Arizona State University

Most likely, “emotions research” is nonsense. But tying it to Darwinism means that its practitioners can hammer down hard on that lectern even if they are not making sense to the people whose emotions they are supposed to be describing. It’s all those people’s fault for being “creationists.”

Further reading: Philosopher flattens evolutionary psychology. There is no such thing as a fossil mind. Rejecting evolutionary psychology means realizing that we cannot both claim to represent “Science!” and refuse to be bound by its standards.

Fatherhood is not “subpersonal” Human fathers care (but gorillas don’t) because fatherhood depends on explicitly human ideas. Why do men see themselves as “fathers” but male gorillas don’t? Proposed answers from evolutionary psychology are hopelessly inadequate.


Does COVID-19 lead women to cheat? The “subpersonal” approach to human psychology is popular but is it valid? It’s an open question whether the mind evolved at all and therefore whether evolutionary psychology is any help in understanding it.

5 Replies to “Creationism is EVERYWHERE you look now…

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Studying emotions quantitatively means the studier is treating humans as machines. By definition. If you see humans as machines, you’re missing the big point whether you think the machine was designed or evolved. Actual creationists and ID’ers see humans as living creatures, not machines. That’s the big point.

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    This is exactly the evolution of gaps argument made in a paper, blatantly saying to not look for more answers to questions

    That you have to settle for what they have found with evolution!

    Here’s new emotion research in a nut shell: “evolution did it don’t ask any more questions you are slowing my research down”

    The only thing worth a damn about this is them saying we aren’t like machines

    Which I don’t know about any of you on this site but I’m pretty sure we constantly argue with people about being considered meat robots through evolution! We are entirely opposed to that view


  3. 3

    Emotions are inherently subjective, they are totally outside of scientific investigations.

    What you can do is investigate decisionmaking processes in the brain. How the decisionmaking is organized. But it is a logical impossibility to obtain any fact whatsoever about the emotions that are doing the deciding.

    You can then combine the facts of how decisionmaking is organized, with subjective judgements about what the emotions are, which make the decisions turn out the way they do.

  4. 4
    Fasteddious says:

    The author looks like he is trying to obfuscate a large chunk of psychology. In one fell swoop, he tries to undermine what we understand in the way of emotions. I strongly doubt that psychologists speaking about emotions will agree that they are thinking in “creationist” terms! Most psychologists, I suggest, are quite happy with Darwinian evolutionary theory and are probably enamoured of evolutionary psychology as well — unfortunately. They would complain loudly if someone accused them of holding “creationist” tendencies as this author appears to do.
    Certainly emotions are imprecise, overlap to some degree, and allow for uncertain and transitory in-between feelings. However, that does not mean they aren’t real and aren’t understood, however imperfectly. Most people know when they are angry, sad, happy, frightened, or what have you, and others know what they mean when they say what they are feeling.
    I haven’t read the paper, but does the author provide any serious alternative to what he is complaining about, or is he just rocking the boat to get published or to get funding for a pet project? I.e. is there any actual scientific content in this paper?

  5. 5
    Splatter says:

    Bloody creationists, always holding back perfectly legitimate branches of pseudoscience.

Leave a Reply