Talk:Evolutionary psychology

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[edit] Wikipedia article

wp:Evolutionary psychology is a tl;dr clusterfuck, with a talk page that amounts to a shouting match, also tl;dr. Some serious knowledgeable intervention is needed there. I thought I was just too dense to get it, but now I see P.Z. Myers say:

"They know nothing about heritability, they've shown nothing about differential survival or fecundity, they haven't even tried to sort out cultural biases from biology. Is this to be the fate of evolutionary psychology, that it shrivels away into irrelevancy as its proponents overhype feeble, pathetic data sets?"

Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 23:41, 16 March 2011 (UTC)

That's ev psych at its worst. The field as a whole isn't that bad, it just looks bad when incompetent scientists start writing "just-so" stories and claiming that they're doing legitimate ev psych. And it's loads better than the social sciences. Tetronian you're clueless 00:09, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
How mainstream is the idea of modularity, in its ev psych sense? Is it consistent with the best recent work? Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 00:23, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
It's hard to tell how mainstream it is, but some (cough cough) proponents of modular theory use it to attack computational models of the mind, defend dualism, and even deny evolutionary psychology as a whole. And since this obviously conflicts with Daniel Dennett et al., modularity can't be too popular. Tetronian you're clueless 00:40, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Thanks. Modularity aside, and being a pleb of very little brain, I often find discussions such as the ongoing one at wp:Talk:Evolutionary psychology to be confusing. And yet, they give me a strong scent of agenda-driven bologna. Maybe "agenda" is too flattering. It might be nothing more than distributed RTFP failure, and numerous blind guys describing a pink elephant. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 00:58, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Wow, that article hits Satoshi Kanazawa levels. Maybe he just had a deadline to meet. I think Myers is harsh on evo psych because he reads the shittiest research out there. There's quite a lot of good research out there but it's mostly much more wonky than the middlebrow BS in the Sunday Times or SciAm. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 01:11, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
I'll second the linked Cosmides and Tooby book as well. Whenever I see some article going on about "The latest in the nature/nurture debate!" I want to smack the author over the head with that book. Epigenetics really puts that false dichotomy to rest as well.Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 01:24, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

Re modularity: "By simulating 25,000 generations of evolution within computers, Cornell University engineering and robotics researchers have discovered why biological networks tend to be organized as modules -- a finding that will lead to a deeper understanding of the evolution of complexity." See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130082300.htm for a summary of J. Clune, J.-B. Mouret, H. Lipson. The evolutionary origins of modularity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1755): 20122863 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2863 Memills (talk) 02:45, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

[edit] Tidbit about purple.

The reason purple was considered a very powerful color in the Roman Empire was because it was incredibly expensive to produce purple dye. The dye available that created a deep purple that would not fade (known as tyrian purple or imperial purple) was exclusive to the aquatic dye murex snail, and was difficult to extract. Thus, only the richest and most powerful of individuals could afford to buy the shade. Other shades of cheaper purple that faded were often made with mixes or multiple passes of dye: blue (woad) and red (madder). ... Sorry, I know it's not very important, but it seemed like an insignificant edit on the page and suddenly... "OH WOW I can put my near-useless encyclopedic knowledge of historical dyes and textiles to action. This will never happen ever again." Knightoftldrsig.pngKnightOfTL;DRjust shut up already 03:39, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

Isn't it true that it takes gold to make purple? (at least in paints). Also, purple is a sexual color, you see it paired with green in lots of pagan imagery. --Pink mowse.pngGodotoi, putain, genial, merci 03:42, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
It is not true to my knowledge that gold was used in the refining process of tyrian purple. I do know that salts and potassium (potash) are required. However, I also know that gold was required in a 17th century recipe for a violet glass coloring: known as Purple of Cassius. Knightoftldrsig.pngKnightOfTL;DRlongissimus non legeri 04:27, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
The same is effectively true for gold, silver, and platinum. People obsess over them because they're rare and therefore expensive. Though rhodium is far more expensive than any of them, but we don't have solid rhodium rings (though we do rhodium plate white gold rings). These metals do have very useful properties, but none of those were utilised until nanoparticle chemistry and catalytic chemistry came along - I don't think the Romans really had those. In true Evo-Psych form, we'd have to wonder if our obsession over shiny metals stems from... actually, I can't think of one right now, but I'm sure it'd involve sexual selection. Scarlet A.pngpostate 08:20, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

[edit] Tooby and Cosmides.

They are very well cited folks in evo-psych, co-authors of Adapted Mind, etc. Among other things they propose evo psych as explanation why we perform better at Wason Selection Task when given concrete example instead of numbers and letters. [1] (scroll down to Wason Selection Task). You couldn't make this up as a strawman if you wanted to. Note the utter lack of testability of the proposition, as their evolved social contracts module only works when trained culturally. It is no use trying to separate it from cultural influences, either. Utter lack of consideration for what it might take to hard wire any solution. Pseudoscience at it's finest - very successful at explaining literally anything, predicts everything at once via hindsight only, could explain evolutionarily anything that is in fact cultural. The really bad evo psych may not be as bad as this, because the really bad one makes falsifiable (and likely false) propositions, while this high flying stuff is just plain non falsifiable by design. Dmytry (talk) 08:35, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

Um, I'm not sure what you mean by a "lack of testability" or "hindsight only", given that Cosmides and Tooby predicted based on their evolved-massive-modularity hypothesis that humans would perform better on cheater-detection Wasons and carried out an experiment-- that is, a test-- whose results confirmed that prediction. Evidence of innateness comes from a) the fact that humans perform better on cheater-detection Wasons even when the terms used are culturally unfamiliar, and b) research which finds similar effects across cultures-- the page you cite lists "adults in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, France, Hong-Kong; schoolchildren in Ecuador, [and] Shiwiar hunter-horticulturalists in the Ecuadorian Amazon". Evidence of modularity comes from the fact that performance on the Wason task is contingent on the social context rather than the logical form of the problem, as we would expect of a domain-general system (this is actually a fairly deep problem for the domain-general hypothesis-- what parameters do humans and other animals use to make inductive generalizations based on their experience? why are those parameters sometimes wonky in predictable, species-specific ways?). Your alternative hypothesis, that all of these differences are cultural in origin, needs to provide a plausible explanation for all of the above data, and to be falsifiable in its own right, make a risky prediction that it can account for but that the evolved-massive-modularity hypothesis cannot.
I'm not sure they were actually the ones to first do that experiment. Furthermore, for evolution to take place you need enough generations and sufficient differential reproduction on existing traits (arising from random mutations which won't create something complex in one step); not even the very surface of the evolutionary scientific work has been scratched there. As well, all of the listed cultures have social contracts and presumably enforce them. The whole argument that some "module" has evolved relies on assumption that social contracts are universal and thus existed through the past. There's an enormous body of research demonstrating that people can learn problem solving in a domain specific way. The domain specificity has absolutely no weight to whenever it is an evolved adaptation or a learned one. Dmytry (talk) 07:20, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

[edit] This article is an embarrassment

The editors who wrote this article, and who think that evolutionary psychology is pseudo-science, need some serious schooling. This article presents anti-science post-modernist / social constructivist / politically correct posers as offering serious rationalist critiques of the field? Really? Those are the topics that belong in a anti-rationalist wiki.

Got some 'splanin and some basic evol psych 101 textbook reading to do. And then some serious revisons. Memills (talk) 02:27, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

I'm inclined to agree. The article's claim that human behavior is somehow immune from evolutionary selection is in fact embarrassing. There isn't much point worrying what an "Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness" might have looked like physically: whether it was hill, wood, or plain, its most conspicuous feature was the presence of fellow human beings. Our most conspicuous behavioral adaptations have to do with relationships with our neighbors, and they were around in some form in any environment in which humans evolved. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 02:52, 3 January 2014 (UTC)
What if I was to tell you that indeed most of human behaviour is not a product of genetics and trying to paint it as such is pseudoscientific to say the least and dangerous to say the most? A couple of PZ's posts on the matter might clarify where I am coming from. Essentially, it's not that genes don't play a role, it's that their role is vastly misinterpreted by current evo psych. There are better suited fields to tackling the contribution of genetics to psychology and brain structure, which are creating proper scientific hypotheses, models, and predictions, and even cures! An easy example is developmental cognitive science. Femilisk is watching 11:22, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
It needs to at least go back to establishing what it is in the first paragraph and section. The "list of uses" isn't particularly useful at all because it doesn't explain how it applies. Controversy is fine, but it needs clarified a bit better as to where these criticisms are straw, and where they're actually right and whatnot. It's a little confusing. Scarlet A.pngDon't click here 11:54, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
Agreed. I shall edit it a little and we can work from there, I might even do a full rewrite and see how that grabs me. At the moment I am really not happy with the readability and clarity of the article. The assumptions of evolutionary psychology and the counter-arguments are not that complicated that they cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. As it stands, it probably doesn't help over and above the wikipedia article, which arguably paints a better picture. Femilisk is watching 14:53, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
It was crap when it was called "sociobiology" and it's crap now. That a non-crap "evolutionary psychology" could and should exist in an ideal world does not mean the one we have now is that - David Gerard (talk) 13:38, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
I am going to have to write down arguments against the evo psych approach because I think it's still too misleading. Also the use Chomskian linguistics (included since the last time we both commented here) is also troubling since also not science. Femilisk is watching 11:15, 20 May 2014 (UTC)
Chomsky on lsnguage acquisition is "not science"? News to me. It is amusing to see so many of the stock tropes of denialism in play, anyways; the problem is that there is a fixed human nature as surely as there is a fixed gorilla nature, even if we deny that evolution made either. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 14:43, 20 May 2014 (UTC)
Chomsky on language acquisition is definitely not science given he doesn't really care if the data backs it up or not. So at best he's quasi-scientific and at worst anti-scientific. He has "tended to polarize scientific and philosophical opinion. In some quarters the very idea of innate linguistic and other mental faculties is dismissed offhand as idealist and/or unscientific, while in others it is celebrated as an important scientific contribution (not to say revolution)." (source) Suffice it to say within the brain and language sciences, his reputation is far from scientific. I can provide more reading materials and references, if required. Femilisk is watching 14:57, 20 May 2014 (UTC)
I am going to revert your changes. The thing about Chomsky is he lost. He did not do science. He lost the debate against Norvig. And Google translate works. Femilisk is watching 15:25, 20 May 2014 (UTC)
(EC) Wow. You mean somebody has actually found Chomsky's "language acquisition device" in a human brain?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 15:01, 20 May 2014 (UTC)
Nobody can dispute the fact that the central nervous system in humans is a more advanced version of animals' CNS's stretching all the way back to reptiles and before. I think it's overreaching to say that evo-psych is all pseudo-science, but I also would suspect that it's hard to arrive at concrete conclusions given that it would require intricate knowledge and real-time mapping of the CNS's of all species to find out what kinds of truly hard-coded dispositions exist across species. It's similar to all psychiatry in this respect where there's a lot of guess work and generalization rather than physics or chemistry where the structures one is working with in scientific analysis are so homogeneous as to exhibit the same behavior universally ( e.g. 2(C2H6) + 7(O2) Δ-> 6(H2O) + 4(CO2) ). Central nervous systems in general structure are homogeneous, but each and every individual one is far more unique than a fingerprint. The fact is, we have a lot of behaviors that are not conscious, that are not taught, that are actually hardcoded into the lower areas of the brain: heartbeat regulation, blood pressure regulation, breathing, sexual arousal, thirst, hunger, fight or flight, muscle stretch reflex, pain reflexes, pain itself, etc.. One could make a list of many thousands of micromanagement processes that the brain and spinal cord do without being culturally taught to do them. Some are what we usually regard as "behavioral," some are "physiological" - the distinction is really arbitrary as it's the same brain that processes these things - we just tend to think about behaviors which we have no control over as "not a behavior." JRCHReason (talk) 05:53, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
"Nobody can dispute the fact that the central nervous system in humans is a more advanced version of animals .."
Humans are animals.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 06:28, 5 July 2014 (UTC)

Nobody is disputing that the CNS is a product of evolution, that isn't evo-psych, that is evolutionary biology, evo-bio, specifically evolutionary neurobiology . They are different things. Evo-psych deals with psychology not just biology. Its like the difference between software and hardware. Nobody is saying that the hardware didn't evolve, its whether or not the behaviour is software or hardware that is the question (/gross over simplification)Ultan (talk) 21:06, 7 July 2014 (UTC)

[edit] Responses to critics

Biology's Just-so-stories, Ed Clint

Science Denialism at a Skeptic Conference Redux, Ed Clint (Extensive analysis of a talk by Rebecca Watson at a Skeptic Conference with remarks regarding Hurlbert and Ling's study on color preference - footnote 28)

David Buller

A Critique of Pure Buller, Robert Kurzban, Part I, Part II, Part III
What about David Buller's book, Adapting Minds?, CEP

The Mating Game Isn't Over,Andrew W. Delton, Theresa E. Robertson, and Douglas T. Kenrick, Evol Psychol

Buller Does to Evolutionary Psychology What Kitcher Did to Sociobiology , Harmon R. Holcomb III, Evol Psychol

[edit] This article is in need of a rewrite

This article broadly shares the problems listed at the top of the Criticism of evolutionary psychologyWikipedia's W.svg article, in the "Multiple issues" template. While it does cover the unacademic abuse of evolutionary psychology, e.g. MRA's quoting random "facts" about how women and men "should be" (as if that's what EP is about), it really does not give a reasonable or even correct treatment of a field that is both scientifically sound and a part of mainstream academical pursuit. The problem is also that the article seems to judge the science of EP on the merits of what could or could not be extrapolated into political and radical feminist thought from it. Which is a completely reasonable position, when directed at the gender essentialist morons who think they understand EP.

EP is at no point a system of political or philosophical thought. EP is a (relatively new) science. In many regards, as far as empirical science goes, just by scientifically marrying evolutionary biology to psychology, we end up with a system of thought that is far better grounded in actual science than any potential system of psychology that stands entirely on its own legs. I don't like the idea that we here at RW, in our battles against the dark forces of Creationism, agree entirely that evolution made the human body - though. for some arbitrary reason, just all the way up to the neck. The fact of the matter is that the entire human body and being is a product of evolution.

And there's tons of mainstream, academical works that portray evolutionary psychology as the branch of legitimate science and psychology that it is. It's not an "attempted" psychology, it's cognitive psychology combined with an understanding of evolutionary biology. And this article seems to portray it as some kind of pseudoscience that is at odds with accepted psychology in general. It's actually not an "enemy" of the field of psychology generally, it is a part of it - an equal branch of science and a tool for understanding the human creature. This needs to be reflected in the article, and that will require a large rewrite. The criticisms aren't ultimately the problem. The criticisms of EP are many, and they are not rarely well justified. The problem is that this article treats the criticisms as the explanation of the field - which is incomplete and misleading. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 13:23, 9 April 2016 (UTC)

I'm just reminded now that this article still needs a rewrite. It seems to confound the scientific study of EP (think in terms of Steven Pinker) with anti-feminism or some such thing. Not that various gender supremacists haven't cobbled together nonsense and called it EP, however. But that's not actually EP at all, in the same way that Creationism isn't an example of "bad science" - Creationism is pseudoscience, not science, to begin with. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 21:06, 30 June 2016 (UTC)
I suspect the best that's possible would be to direct the curious to an off-site resource. EP does establish that altruism flows from kin selection, and that human mating strategies are the result of a typical evolutionary arms race. Worst of all, it suggests that there is a core human nature that can't be made to change in anyone's lifetime. EP is quite simply fatal to various egalitarian utopias with fans here. - Smerdis of Tlön, LOAD "*", 8, 1. 22:21, 30 June 2016 (UTC)

[edit] We don't just NEED evolutionary psychology

We need ecopsychologyWikipedia's W.svg, even. And without the former, you deny the latter.

I will repeat that this article needs a rewrite. But what I don't mean by that is: taking the article from a hitpiece to a work of fandom.

What we need here is the nuance to not be inaccurate. To make an analogy — just like with the topics of Islamophobia and Criticisms of Islam (respectively), we need to:

  1. Recognize that both actually exist
  2. Untangle the one from the other
  3. Criticize the one and participate in the other

As such, we need to do the same here as well, but with bad EP and good EP (respectively).

Now, there's plenty of bad EP to debunk, and we've been lazy doing so. PUA nonsense, antifeminists, various supremacist movements...

There's also no way around the basic facts of EP. Your brain evolved. We're animals. Deal with it.

As such, there's plenty of bad anti-EP to resist as well — for example, the theist arguments against innate human morality rely on denying EP.

It's also important that we show basic consistency with our Gold articles.

Here's something you may not have realized — many of the same fundamentals of biology which undermine racialism support evolutionary psychology.

Had racialism worked, evolutionary psychology could not have.

I'm editing from my phone right now, but trust me — I'll explain why this is (and there's good citations for this fact).

In short: separate good from bad, explain the difference, keep nuking the bad. Sound good? Reverend Black Percy (talk) 16:38, 3 April 2017 (UTC)

I agree, this article needs to differentiate the good from the bad, as it currently engages in some weasel wording and tries lumping all critics as one homogeneous side and the proponents as another homogeneous side. This makes this article a murky, soupy combination of points. The quote at the top needs to go; it doesn't add anything remarkable and I find it very disagreeable because it oversimplifies evolutionary psychology to the point where it sounds absurd. The bulk of this article should be relatively dry while we can devote a section on how it's abused and why it's wrong. At the minimum, this article needs to specify exactly who these "critics" are because it can be literally anyone, including those who don't dispute the science of evolutionary psychology, but criticize mainly the batnuts part of it, who could be labeled along with creationists, who don't like evolution at all. --It's-a me, LeftyGreenMario! 19:21, 10 April 2017 (UTC)

[edit] Why the statistical argument against EP fails

TL;DR: It's for the same reason that EP follows by necessity for anyone who doesn't deny the wider theory of evolution — accounting for certain behaviors in terms of adaption is always more parsimonious than not doing so is.

That's not to say that there isn't any bullshit/pop EP — to the contrary. Indeed, notice how the narrator keeps saying "EP, properly understood". As in, EP fundamentally. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 12:40, 4 April 2017 (UTC)

[edit] Why fundamental EP only conflicts with pseudoscience

An excellent read, from the desk of Robin Dunbar (Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University).

Here's the jist of it (though I warmly recommend reading the whole article):

[...] Evolutionary questions are once more being given prominence. The result has been a surprisingly adverse reaction on the part of more conventional psychologists and a somewhat fractious debate. It has been a dispute that has been largely misplaced. This is mainly because most conventional cognitive and developmental psychologists have misunderstood the role of an evolutionary perspective, seeing it as a competing paradigm that would render their existing theories redundant or wrong.

[...]

One reason for this misunderstanding has been a seemingly inevitable tendency for psychologists to interpret an evolutionary approach in terms of the nature/nurture debate.

[...]

A second source of confusion has been the fact that psychologists are used to explaining human behaviour in terms of motivations. So when evolutionary psychologists assert that someone behaves in a particular way ‘in order to maximise their fitness’, this has often been interpreted as a statement about what actually motivates people. ‘Evolutionary explanations can’t be true because I married because I was in love…, or because I had my eye on a rich spouse..., etc.’ In fact, this is to confuse apples with oranges. Evolutionary explanations are about the ultimate (i.e. evolutionary) goals that guide behaviour, not their immediate motivations.

[...]

The problem is that both these common responses conflate different levels (or types) of explanation. In doing so, they (perhaps deliberately) obscure the real role that an evolutionary approach ought to play in any discipline. While it is always possible that components of the mind are genetically determined in some strong sense (and there is now considerable evidence to support this in many – but of course not all – cases), an evolutionary perspective does not require this to be so. Certainly, there must be genes involved, but these genes need not be genes that determine behaviour, or even the mind in fine detail.

[...]

Cultural evolution is as natural a component of the Darwinian world as something like eye colour that is more obviously under direct genetic control. Culture is not something that is somehow opposed to, or contrasted with, biology – culture is biology. The nature/nurture debate ground to a standstill in biology as long ago as the 1960s because biologists began to realise that the question was actually meaningless: everything is the product of the interaction of both nature and nurture. It doesn’t even make sense to ask whether a trait is due to one or the other. Recognising this allows us to appreciate that cultural explanations are as much a part of the Darwinian process as genetic ones.

This is a natural consequence of the fact that the Darwinian formula does not specify whether or not genes are involved – which is perhaps not too surprising, given that they weren’t discovered until decades after Darwin’s death. Darwin and Mendel (who provided the mechanism of inheritance that underpinned Darwin’s theory of evolution) merely spoke of heritability. They did not specify what form that should take, although perhaps inevitably it came to be identified with genes once these were discovered. However, Darwin’s theory deals with Mendelian genes, and Mendelian genes are not DNA but rather traits whose mode of inheritance is unspecified. In principle, anything that allows fidelity of copying across generations is enough to generate the processes of natural selection. Learning is, of course, such a process, since it results in something (rules of behaviour, lists to be remembered) being differentially passed on through time. Cultural inheritance (or social learning) is simply one more evolutionary process.

[...]

We tend to live in a folk psychological world of mixed motives: we often explain our behaviour by a confusing appeal to both proximate motivations and ultimate fitness consequences at the same time, and don’t always make a clear distinction between the two. I suspect that one of the sources of confusion here is that psychologists tend to focus on the individual and typically ask why an individual behaves in the way he or she does. In contrast, although the evolutionary perspective also speaks about individuals, it takes these to stand for categories. In reality, the evolutionary approach focuses on strategies that individuals use (Mendelian genes), rather than the individuals as such. The individuals, in one sense, are simply the vehicles that express the strategies. The same individual could, on different occasions, come to stand for very different strategies.

[...]

An evolutionary framework allow us to integrate a wide range of different subdisciplines. Here, we fitted together a jigsaw of components based on differences in social behaviour, their cognitive, neurological and developmental underpinnings, and their social consequences both for the individual and for the emergent structural aspects of society as well as something to do with the functions of group life. We have slipped effortlessly from neuropsychology to sociology, and back, and called in on ecology on the way.

My claim is that our understanding of the phenomena we study is the richer and the more complete for this breadth of explanation. But more than that, our real appreciation of what is involved is only possible by integrating all these disciplines into a single seamless framework. And the only framework we have that can do this job is evolutionary theory.

Here's an analogy: Big History has the benefit of being able to enjoy a far stronger fundamental grounding than that of traditional History. Crucially however, there's no rivalry here (at least not on part of Big History).

Big History is inherently complementary to traditional History — it does not seek to challenge it. Big History is there in support of its otherwise lessened sibling.

Only traditional History could arbitrarily try to reject the symbiosis on offer — even (hopelessly) pick a fight! — with the respectfully inclusive Big History.

This, despite the fact that; out of the two disciplines, traditional History (when push comes to shove) is the weaker combatant by far.

In essence, the same relationship exists between EP and traditional psychology.

It's only via ideological vanity based upon denying evolution that traditional psychology could try to resist what even social constructivists (per Searle) have termed the "brute fact" of evolutionary theory and its necessary ramifications for all sciences (in the form of EP, for psychology). Reverend Black Percy (talk) 13:50, 24 April 2017 (UTC)

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