The fashion in biology and psychology today seems to be to lend yet another anecdote to the cause of evolutionary psychology, the latest meme child of sociobiology and social Darwinism - defenders of the delusion that nature is a struggle to survive. The miserable and nasty assertions made about nature and the primal foundations that underpin humans are breathtaking.
Phobias that were seen as shortcuts and excuses for not coming to terms with issues, under evolutionary psychology have become evolved strategies to enhance survival (the real way to overcome phobias is to confront them or come to terms with them - wild animals do not seek the luxury of avoiding such issues). With such complexity of issues for humans to deal with, nearly all have settled for one kind of phobia or another, so there are many willing ears for a 'science' that will let them deal with their phobias by telling them they are real and well founded rather than a psychological excuse. Similarly, under evolutionary psychology, ungracious behaviour demonstrating selfishness and sexual randiness leading to cheating and abuse becomes proof that primal nature is just so.
Pinker (1997) writes 'Some people think that evolutionary psychology claims to have discovered that human nature is selfish and wicked. But they are flattering the researchers and anyone who would claim to have discovered the opposite. No one needs a scientist to measure whether humans are prone to knavery. The question has been answered in the history books, the newspapers, the ethnographic record, and the letters to Ann Landers.'
Dawkins (1976): 'Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish'. And, 'Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature.'
Dr Beetle wonders how a species could have become so detached from reality and nature to believe in such drivel.
The fundamental mistake made by evolutionary psychologists is that they see humans as the pinnacle achievement or demonstration of evolution and nature. They have struggled, they have survived, and now they dominate and rule the lands. But I am sorry to inform you that agreement amongst yourselves and the unavoidable silence from nature does not make you right. Dr Beetle can now speak! (well, type at least). Humans are actually the dunce species of biology and evolution (see scepticism and ways). Humans do not live to their potential, so have no idea what it feels like to make the most of yourself - in confidence, vision, connections, wisdom, etc. Any other species living wildly in nature has achieved this class or level of parsimony (more beetle), while humans have not, so their current preoccupation is to try and fill their deep personal gaps by looking for blame, rather than taking note from the real teachers in this world that could lift them out of their restricted little minds into their full potential, a state where the world looks very different and connected to the one you see now. Of course, belief that you are the peak natural extension of evolution sets up a whole confine of psychology and excuse even for the psychologists - they are only human after all. Therefore to them, how they feel, fear and act now demands a natural evolved explanation where they are to emerge as the enlightened species. They see a direct lineage from ancestors to how people behave now. Studying society today and in the recent past becomes their natural or 'wild type' population. Voila, the species is no longer artificial! (more beetle) By peddling harder into estrangement and aloofness from nature, evolutionary psychologists seem to gather a disdain for any example of those who feel a closer bond with nature and can see its true value. Sharmans become flim flam artists (Pinker, 1997: 305), and aboriginal rock paintings become pornography (Pinker, 1997: 472). The notion that there is a higher level of organisation within nature than genes and DNA, seems lost to them (more beetle, see Wildness).
But simple mathematics with their own icons should bring them undone. Humans share 50% of their genes with flies. Imagine, 50% of your genes are needed in the fly to tell them how to distinguish their head from their butt, how to grow and symmetrically, how to digest sugar, how to walk, see etc. Yet with the remaining 50% of your genes, they are meant not only to give you the additional adaptations of a multi-complex brain, stomach, voice, skin, bones and hands, but also codes for dozens of complex emotions, fears, disgusts, personality traits, attitudes, and kin recognition signals. Any sense of proportionality should reveal that so many inheritances are simply not possible. Gene shortage, as noted by Paul Ehrlich. A fly does not even posses a fear for spiders (nor I note, a sense of disgust!) within the 50% of the genes that they share with humans.
If you are looking for a psychology that will later emerge as the most informative for understanding biology and ultimately youselves, I suggest you try ecopsychology. Although, they still need some more science behind them yet. (Posted January 2004)
Debunking evolutionary psychology: