Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology

MIT Press, 22 . 2010 . - 232 .
A philosopher subjects the claims of evolutionary psychology to the evidential and methodological requirements of evolutionary biology, concluding that evolutionary psychology's explanations amount to speculation disguised as results.

Human beings, like other organisms, are the products of evolution. Like other organisms, we exhibit traits that are the product of natural selection. Our psychological capacities are evolved traits as much as are our gait and posture. This much few would dispute. Evolutionary psychology goes further than this, claiming that our psychological traitsincluding a wide variety of traits, from mate preference and jealousy to language and reasoncan be understood as specific adaptations to ancestral Pleistocene conditions. In Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology, Robert Richardson takes a critical look at evolutionary psychology by subjecting its ambitious and controversial claims to the same sorts of methodological and evidential constraints that are broadly accepted within evolutionary biology.

The claims of evolutionary psychology may pass muster as psychology; but what are their evolutionary credentials? Richardson considers three ways adaptive hypotheses can be evaluated, using examples from the biological literature to illustrate what sorts of evidence and methodology would be necessary to establish specific evolutionary and adaptive explanations of human psychological traits. He shows that existing explanations within evolutionary psychology fall woefully short of accepted biological standards. The theories offered by evolutionary psychologists may identify traits that are, or were, beneficial to humans. But gauged by biological standards, there is inadequate evidence: evolutionary psychologists are largely silent on the evolutionary evidence relevant to assessing their claims, including such matters as variation in ancestral populations, heritability, and the advantage offered to our ancestors. As evolutionary claims they are unsubstantiated. Evolutionary psychology, Richardson concludes, may offer a program of research, but it lacks the kind of evidence that is generally expected within evolutionary biology. It is speculation rather than sound scienceand we should treat its claims with skepticism.

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LibraryThing Review

  - thcson - LibraryThing

A sharp and convincing critique which exposes the grandiose claims of evolutionary psychology as pure speculation. The author's main argument is simply that there isn't nearly enough available ...


Mans Place in Nature
1
1 The Ambitions of Evolutionary Psychology
13
2 Reverse Engineering and Adaptation
41
3 The Dynamics of Adaptation
89
4 Recovering Evolutionary History
141
5 Idle Darwinizing
173
Notes
185
References
193
Index
209

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1 - In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.
8 - I have already urged, the practice of that which is ethically best what we call goodness or virtue involves a course of conduct which, in all respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence.
17 - In considering the origin of species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species.
4 - Progress, therefore, is not an accident, but a necessity. Instead of civilization being artificial, it is a part of nature ; all of a piece with the development of the embryo or the unfolding of a flower. The modifications mankind have undergone, and are still undergoing, result from a law underlying the whole organic creation ; and provided the human race continues, and the constitution of things remains the same, those modifications must end in completeness.
86 - You find certain phenomena in nature. You seek a cause or author. You imagine that you have found him. You afterwards become so enamoured of this offspring of your brain, that you imagine it impossible, but he must produce something greater and more perfect than the present scene of things, which is so full of ill and disorder.
7 - If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live...
86 - When we infer any particular cause from an effect, we must proportion the one to the other, and can never be allowed to ascribe to the cause any qualities, but what are exactly sufficient to produce the effect.
7 - And, again, it is an error to imagine that evolution signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection. That process undoubtedly involves a constant remodelling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those conditions whether the direction of the modifications effected shall be upward or downward.
141 - The mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life, in particular, understanding and outmaneuvering objects, animals, plants and other people (p.
119 - As it is difficult to imagine that eyes, though useless, could be in any way injurious to animals living in darkness, their loss may be attributed to disuse.

 (2010)

Robert C. Richardson is Charles Phelps Taft Professor of Philosophy and a University Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Cincinnati, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the author of Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology (MIT Press, 2007).