From The Nation:
Humans tend to think of their lives as narratives; some evolutionary psychologists even say that we have evolved to be that way. But now more than ever, we are materially and spiritually dependent on institutions that work by algorithm: the market, the virus, the search engine. In this context, evolutionary psychology helps make the random seem less random. Its appeal may be precisely that it turns impersonal processes of selection into coherent stories. But EP has not gotten us any closer to understanding “human nature.” Instead, its provocations about gender have distracted us from what is truly interesting—and radical—about Darwin.
Several EP scholars argue that human nature was fixed in the Pleistocene Era, that modern culture is merely a flimsy cover for our cave-dweller minds. But a great deal of evidence suggests that evolution occurs at a much faster rate than evolutionary psychologists think. And in any event, not all of the genes we inherit will express themselves. New research on “gene expression” is exploring the environmental factors that “switch on” genes. Even if there were a “rape gene,” many factors would limit its expression, and a truly anti-rape culture might eliminate it for good.
Many academics have criticized EP for lacking a healthy—and scientific—skepticism. But it also lacks a humanistic approach, attentive to the subtlety and nuance of human relationships. Assertions about how we are “pre-programmed” shut down our most interesting conversations about gender roles and sexual relations. Our desire to speculate about human nature may be our most distinctive feature. Along with one other constant: whether by nature or nurture, human beings can change, are changing, and will continue to change.
Not sure if theirs are the “most interesting conversations” at the bistro, but they do suggest an interesting point:
Evo psych is a contradiction in terms. Were it a valid field of study, it would demonstrate that evolution hasn’t happened in a million years. Things are just like they were back then.
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