Evolutionary psychology Intelligent Design

Evolutionary psychology’s greatest contribution to research is as a line item expense

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Here is an example: A friend asked, why do so many pop science articles on the widespread problem of loneliness begin with some jaw about at how loneliness evolved. This item at The Atlantic gives a sense of it:

As social animals, we depend on others for survival. Our communities provide mutual aid and protection, helping humanity to endure and thrive. “We have survived as a species not because we’re fast or strong or have natural weapons in our fingertips, but because of social protection,” said John Cacioppo, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Early humans, for example, could take down large mammals only by hunting in groups. “Our strength is our ability to communicate and work together,” he said.

But how did these powerful communities come to exist in the first place? Cacioppo proposes that the root of social ties lies in their opposite—loneliness. According to his theory, the pain of being alone motivates us to seek the safety of companionship, which in turn benefits the species by encouraging group cooperation and protection. Loneliness persists because it provides an essential evolutionary benefit for social animals. Like thirst, hunger or pain, loneliness is an aversive state that animals seek to resolve, improving their long-term survival. More.

Hmmm. Is that how wolves evolved to live in hunting packs as well?

I wrote back to say, Cheap filler? For sure. The evolutionary psychology explanation for loneliness is a glorified version of a grammatical trick invented by Darwinists: The use of “evolved to” to mean “is.”

There is no serious science behind the proposed explanation and the phrase “evolved to” serves no purpose except to advance the claims of evolutionary psychology for free, that is, without adding information except to the expense item line of universities fool enough to host it.

Consider two scenarios: First: Our ancestors two million years ago thought like we do, so they experienced the peculiarly human fear of desertion, where one is aware of past, present, and future in a way that animals are not.

If so, no evolution has occurred for two million years. That’s surely informative but in any event, researchers must work with the living human population, which they would have done anyway if they had never heard of evolution.

Alternatively: Our ancestors two million years ago were quite different from us and experienced loneliness without human cognitive awareness. That is good to know if it can be demonstrated. But how does it help us address the problem of loneliness among humans today?

That is why evolutionary psychology can make no actual contribution to knowledge. But its adepts are good at using Darwinian phrases in order to pretend to do so.

No surprise, evolutionary psychology mainly inhabits the swamps of pop culture

Note: Loneliness is increasing due to greater urbanization. It’s a tough question because urbanization liberates many people from relationships they would rather not have. It’s often overlooked these days that togetherness is not always a blessing. The devil is in the details. Widows who had to live with their mothers-in-law in the past might well, in many cases, have much preferred to live alone. However, it can also leave them with no relationships of any importance at all.

See also: “The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants”

4 Replies to “Evolutionary psychology’s greatest contribution to research is as a line item expense

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    I think you’ve got the focus wrong. You’re starting with adults instead of the pups.

    Humans have the longest infancy of any animal. And raising a helpless infant human to the point that he or she can simply FEED themselves from a pile of food takes 2 or 3 years. And of course during those years the parents and siblings are building personal bonds with the new member of the pack (i.e., top-down AND bottom-up).

    So the most natural thing in the world is for a grown child human to ASSUME that life centers on the manpack and continue to INCREASE his connections. And ANY sane human who has to see the sun go down without being surrounded by his pack is most definitely lonely. But the normal, default state is “group hug”, and the abnormal, rare state is “alone”. There is simply no point in creating myths about wandering solitary humans who stumble upon another solitary human and, against their natures, start living together.

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    This seems to miss the basic fact, true from bacteria to humans, that some creatures are wanderers and some are settlers. Among social animals wandering is an official part of the life cycle; sometimes only for males, sometimes for everyone when the Swarmer Switch turns on.

    Urbanization and the frontier tendency in places like US and Australia selectively favor the wanderers. The settlers stay in the Old Country, or stay in the first colonies.

    The problem comes when wanderers living in an all-wander environment have kids with settler genes. Those are the lonely people.

  3. 3
    Jon Garvey says:

    Carts before horses? The most logical adaptive explanation of loneliness is that it’s a response to existing social organisations, to maintain them, not the variation that causes them.

    It’s like suggesting that pandas used to live in herds, but evolved anti-socialness “in order to” enable the evolution of solitariness.

    Now we just need an explanation for animals that go about in pairs.

  4. 4
    News says:

    We have no idea whether a pre-human entity would be lonely, as we understand it, or not. Or any way to find out. Evo psych is a waste of time and money.

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