Evolutionary Psychology - The Moral Animal

Jonathan Badger badger at phylo.life.uiuc.edu
Wed Oct 11 20:21:14 EST 1995

bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu (Bert Gold) writes:

>I have just finished reading Robert Wright's new book,
>The Moral Animal [...]

>If I remember the New York Times book review of this work correctly,
>it emphasized Mr. Wright's deep understanding of why beautiful young
>women are attracted to moneyed greying men.

>Although I am impressed with both Mr. Wright's and Dr. E. O. Wilson's
>elucidation of the importance of altruism, sib-selection and kin selection
>for behavioral evolution; I remain unconvinced that a necessary relation
>to the laws of physics and chemistry has been forged by these two
>writers. [...]

>Do any of you have any insight into what troubles me about this field
>(evolutionary psychology) and how I might learn to think this way?

Well frankly, many geneticists consider much of "Sociobiology" to be
little more than pseudoscience on par with Freud. Like Freudian
psychology it has an explanation for everything and yet almost no
experimental data to back it up with. Whenever a critic (which include
such well known evolutionary scientists such as Gould and
Maynard-Smith) points this out, Wilson's brilliant defense is to call
the critic a Marxist. Apparently Ed isn't aware that the House
Committee on Un-American Activities has been dissolved, and that
calling someone a Red doesn't cause them to be blacklisted anymore.

I'm not saying that all evolutionary approaches to behavior are wrong,
but if it is to be accepted as science it must do more than postulate
theories -- it must back it up with evidence. For example, if marrying
for money is said to be genetic, the gene responsible should be able
to be identified and sequenced, and its gene product studied to
understand its effects. Why should sociobiology or "evolutionary
psychology" as it likes to call itself today, be held to a lesser
standard of evidence than the rest of biology?

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