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At Mind Matters News: Evolutionary psychology: When we looked in, no one was there…

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Nub of the problem:

Nub of the problem: If the question is, what helped prehumans survive, there really aren’t any prehumans around. So we don’t know how they differed from current ones. If the question is how early humans survived, we don’t have a good reason to suppose that their psychology was much different from ours.

Evolutionary psychology likely got started when psychologists wanted to get in on the popularity of findings in evolution. But whatever evolutionary thinking may have done for the tyrannosaur or the trilobite, it can’t really do for humans. So far as we know there has been no real evolution of any kind, of which we have a clear record, in human psychology.

News, “Evolutionary psychology: When we looked in, no one was there…” at Mind Matters News (December 2, 2021)

Takehome: Evo psych likely got started when psychologists wanted to get in on illuminating findings in evolution, like the Cambrian Explosion. Trouble is, there aren’t any prehumans around. And we don’t have a good reason to believe that early humans differed much from us in psychology.

You may also wish to read: 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.

4 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: Evolutionary psychology: When we looked in, no one was there…

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Good conversation.

    Maybe we have too many fossil BRAINS, in the form of plaster casts and now 3d scans from the interior of skulls. Anthropologists have always assumed that the shape and size and wrinkles of the lobes fully determine intelligence and speech abilities. The cast or scan is solid physical evidence, which is supposed to be the basis of science; so it’s genuinely hard to question those assumptions.

    Casts can validly inform us about mechanical structures like the cochlea, but they’re completely useless for the infinitely adaptable wave-based mind.

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    Evolution requires that there be prehumans of some sort, so by their logic (“evolution is true”) and faith (“we just know it is true!”), prehumans must have existed at some point. But not having any firm findings does not stop evolutionary psychologists from hypothesizing and speculating, thereby producing no end of “Just So” stories which the popular media gobbles up as if Gospel.

  3. 3
    chuckdarwin says:

    The author of this article, in his or her rush to mock, misses the point of bona fide evolutionary psychology. The unhelpful suggestion that we can know nothing about pre-hominid and hominid psychology because there are no “fossil brains” to study, deliberately ignores the undeniable fact that our learning and memory evolved and can be traced through both fossil and artifact remnants, behavioral correlates and the evolution of brain anatomy. Tool making is the paradigm case for the evolution of human learning.

    Admittedly, there are folks in the field that are flakes, but that is true in any area of research. Setting that aside, the two most important variables that human psychology deals with are learning and memory which are fundamental to cognitive development. The groundbreaking research of Swiss child psychologist and epistemologist, Jean Piaget (whom Jordan Peterson refers to quite frequently), provides an excellent paradigm for the study of the evolution of learning and memory because Piaget’s stages of cognitive development roughly track the likely path of the evolution of the stages of human cognition. From the most primitive level of cognition, sensorimotor behavior, found in infants to about two years, through formal operational behavior (abstract thought) which develops during middle to late teens, Piaget’s developmental model is explicitly tied to evolution. Looking at human behavior through this lens gives us a wealth of information as to early hominid psychology.

  4. 4
    jerry says:

    Evolutionary Psychology is nothing more than a sub-discipline of genetics but with lots of speculation instead of evidence. There is some evidence but not much.

    the point of bona fide evolutionary psychology

    Vanishingly small.

    So how many fallacies does Evolutionary Psychology commit, let me count the ways.

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