As if psychology were not troubled enough. Psychologist Cristine Legare argues at Nautilus:
My high school biology teacher, Mr. Whittington, put a framed picture of a primate ancestor in the front of his classroom—a place of reverence. In a deeply religious and conservative community in rural America, this was a radical act. Evolution, among the most well-supported scientific theories in human history, was then, and still is, deliberately censored from biological science education. But Whittington taught evolution unapologetically, as “the single best idea anybody ever had,” as the philosopher Dan Dennett described it. Whittington saw me looking at the primate in wonder one day and said, “Cristine, look at its hands. Now look at your hands. This is what common descent looks like.”
Evolution has shaped the human body, but it also shaped the human brain, so evolutionary principles are indispensable for understanding our psychology. Yet many students, teachers, and even social scientists struggle to see how our evolutionary history significantly shapes our cognition and behavior today.
Her first example of what she feels she can explain?
Take the conformity bias. It is a universal proclivity of all human psychology—even very young children imitate the behavior of others and conform to group norms. Yet beliefs about conformity vary substantially between populations. Adults in some populations are more likely to associate conformity with children’s intelligence, whereas others view creative non-conformity as linked with intelligence. Psychological adaptations for social learning, such as conformity bias, develop in complex and diverse cultural ecologies that work in tandem to shape the human mind and generate cultural variation. More.
Yes, quite so. And values can change in a couple of generations, as people face new conditions. We evolved to change, sometimes in ways that can make us unrecognizable to ourselves in our own past.
Legare refers to her work as “evolutionary theory” but actual evolutionary theory is a discipline with subjects like the physical fossils of homo Naledi and Neanderthal man, real and frozen in time. We can only say what we can demonstrate.
Evolutionary psychology, by contrast, acts as shrink to long-departed minds, generating theories that are extraneous to the current situations they are meant to address. That’s what has kept it on the margins all this time. Moving it closer to the center will add to the intellectual meltdown currently underway but make little difference otherwise.
Her parting shot?:
If “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” as the evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky argued in 1973, then nothing in human psychology, behavior, and culture does either. Social scientific research should reflect this fact.
As Jonathan Wells has replied to many such claims, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evidence.”
See also: Call for papers: How did atheism evolve? Evolutionary psychologists now want to study atheism
Larry Moran asks whether evolutionary psychology is a “deeply flawed” enterprise
A BS detector for the social sciences?
All sides agree: progressive politics is strangling social sciences
The illusion of consciousness sees through itself.
“The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants”