The last time we heard from evolutionary psychologist David Barash, he was fronting an anti-ID theory.
You’d think he’d have enough trouble at home. In a world where social sciences are racing to the bottom, evolutionary psychology is leading the race.
Look, there is a world of science out there, and if these guys would rather spin Tales from the Savannah, what are we supposed to do about it? Too bad if the Large Hadron Collider and the Pluto flyby got in their way.
Now we learn from Barash at Aeon:
Many scientific findings run counter to common sense and challenge our deepest assumptions about reality: the fact that even the most solid objects are composed at the subatomic level of mostly empty space, or the difficulty of conceiving things that go beyond everyday experience, such as vast temperatures, time scales, distances and speeds, or (as in the case of continental drift) exceedingly slow movements – not to mention the statistically verifiable but nonetheless unimaginable ability of natural selection, over time, to generate outcomes of astounding complexity. On top of this, we have the continuing paradox that the more we learn about reality, the less central and self-important is our own species. More.
Notice how quickly Barash slides from the demonstrable to the undemonstrable, from particle physics down to undemonstrated claims for natural selection creating huge amounts of new information, even in finch beaks.
Science is a process, which, unlike ideology, is distinguished by intellectual flexibility, by a graceful, grateful (albeit sometimes grudging) acceptance of the need to change our minds, as our understanding of the world evolves.
Is Barash telling this to Darwin’s angry faithful? They probably need it more than the rest of us just now.
We are looking to a future that doesn’t include just taking for granted that Darwin’s followers have the single greatest idea anyone ever had.
Do readers find it curious that people like Barash have built a career on the one hand claiming allegiance to such an idea and on the other hand claiming that science changes its mind (except, of course, in the one case whereby he makes his living)?
In any event, just the fact that one changes one’s mind a lot is not in itself any kind of a recommendation. As anyone who has dealt with a scatterbrain will know.
Real knowledge builds on solid foundations, one of which is clearly not Darwinian theory.
Famous evolutionary psychologist E. O. Wilson provided a marvellous demonstration of that, when he suddenly changed his mind on “group selection,” for no clear reason. A supporter attempted to paper over the cracks by proclaiming that his eminence meant that everyone is right.
Well then, no one is right. If anyone doubts that that episode demonstrates the hollowness of the Darwinian approach, well … that person must have tenure somewhere.
No matter, the world is changing. The one thing Darwin’s followers definitely got right.
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