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mere psychologists and evolution

James Woodson jwoodson at ucla.edu
Tue May 27 17:29:22 EST 1997


>
>rlh:
>
>I favor ethologists because they include elements of evolutionary biology
>in their models.  Psychology strikes me as an interesting discipline
>working almost exclusively with mammalian models...white males, white rats,
>and a few great apes.  The really interesting questions seem to be related
>to how an earthworm might organize its' awareness of the world compared
>with a perch, a sparrow, an octopus.  Frankly, I have no clue as to how we
>might approach such problems, but then again remember we are combining the
>heavens for signs of intelligent life when we have problems deciding who is
>intelligent on earth...
>
A correction: Psychology currently utilizes a much greater spectrum of
subjects than mentioned above, including the sea mollusk Aplysia
Californica, the nematode C. Elegans, as well as crayfish, birds of various
species, and numerous human subjects of highly diverse genetic and
geographic origin.
Regarding the above post, I would agree that an evolutionary approach to
behavior is beneficial in the pursuit of theoretical explanations for what
is observed.   I know of no current biologist or biological psychologist
who would disagree (except perhaps to keep their job in some parts of the
southeast US where evolution is still heresy).

As to approaching the problems of inteligence and memory, etc., a
multifaceted approach appears to be the best, with many fields contributing
to the collective knowledge we accrue. The eclectic viewpoints contributing
to my field of behavioral neuroscience include biology, psychology,
evolution and natural selection theories, chemistry, physics, and
mathematics.  For those in doubt about mathematics in psychology, I would
refer them to a book by C.R. Gallistel entitled The Organisation of
Behavior, or work in the Cognitive Neurosciences by Keith Holyoak.  Let us
not forget the mathematical properties inherent in our own nervous systems'
integration and processing of information portrayed by neural net modelers.

	The unfortunate perception of some of us as "mere psychologists" is
largely attributible to the unfounded yet omnipresent heirarchy of
mathematics over physics, physics over chemistry, chemistry over biology,
and biology over psychology.  Never forget, however, that mathematics is a
product of the human mind; the province of the "mere psychologists".




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