If a crime occurs, asking the criminal what happened is unlikely to give you the most accurate picture of events. This is why police interview the victim first. So an evolutionary psychologist outlining how great evolutionary psychology is has to be taken with a grain of salt; no one becomes a professor in a field and then decides it is a lot of woo.
Scientists are inclined to give it a break because they cleverly use the word 'evolutionary' in the name and if they don't look at the actual claims they use the words in context and assume there must be something to it; other psychologists give the people in their field a break because they believe all publicity is good publicity; Satoshi Kanazawa and Marc Hauser were rock stars in psychology because they were popular so evolutionary psychologists ignored the sketchy data. And since it is a social field, virtually anything can be rationalized. Want to believe we evolved to like a certain type of car grill? Well, evolutionary psychology can throw out a science-y explanation.
Evolutionary psychologists insist they are using the same rigor as biologists and just want to explain the brain, but what they are really doing is rationalizing cultural positions and hoping to map that to a biological topology. Dr. Michael Price, Ph.D., lecturer in the psychology department at Brunel University, West London and co-director at the Centre for Culture and Evolutionary Psychology, wrote a whole article on Psychology Today discussing that there should be no confusion that the brain has evolved and adapted - yet it's kind of a straw man because I can't find anyone who contends the brain did not adapt. What evolutionary psychology contends instead is that social constructs are biological; if I like girls with blonde hair, women evolve to have blonde hair. And that means with the advent of Miss Clairol, actual blondes may die out.
I am not trying to pick on Price, his article is pretty middle of the road in its claims and well written, though maybe a little heavy on the neuroscience-envy side. I am completely convinced he is convinced evolutionary psychology can't be wrong but what evolutionary psychology needs is the same kind of internal accountability biology and physics have. Want to claim life may have started in arsenic? You'd better have rigorous data. But if you want to claim the brain evolved to 'solve problems' no one in evolutionary psychology even blinks.
Social psychologists have started to demand more accountability; the downfall of Diederik Stapel occurred because young researchers who thought they were entering a science field discovered the biggest people in it were treating the discipline as some kind of hustle. Evolutionary psychology has not done that; external people went after Kanazawa and Hauser first. Yet in evolutionary psychology they will still contend that taking turns evolved, that Maslow's heirarchy of needs was really a sex pyramid, or that atheists And liberals evolved to be more intelligent and it has an air of truthiness to them so they let it go. The idea that neural circuits became specialized to solve adaptive problems sounds interesting enough but has no actual evidence of any kind and thus is philosophy, not science. So most of evolutionary psychology resorts to finding a social construct, interviewing college students, and finding a way to make everything about sex.
There is hope, of course, but as I said, the first step is accountability - telling us how evolutionary psychology can't be wrong is not constructive. Showing us how it is right and calling out the charlatans is good for everyone, though.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Global 'Roadmap' Shows Where To Put Roads Without Costing The Earth
- Neil Tyson On The Politics Of Science Denial
- Synaptic Plasticity And Memory In Silent Neurons
- Low Carb Vs. Low Fat Diets: Which Is Better?
- Wockhardt Is First Indian Pharmaceutical Company To Get FDA QIDP Status
- How The Higgs Became The Target Of Run 2 At The Tevatron
- Brain Size Matters When It Comes To Remembering
- "So ignore the data that shows the Antarctic breaking ice extent records. Ignore the water displacement..."
- "You don't think science media is a lot better about calling out anti-science on both political..."
- "From what I have seen over the years on Science 2.0 I regard LagrangiansForBreakfast and Ed brown..."
- "Edison's superior lamp filament was made of carbon, not tungsten. In 1906, the General Electric..."
- "Those days are long gone seriously ?..."
- NYU study compares consequences of teen alcohol and marijuana use
- Discovery hints at why stress is more devastating for some
- Simple awareness campaign in general practice identifies new cases of AF
- ROCKET AF trial suggests that digoxin increases risk of death in AF patients
- Health structures explain nearly 20 percent of non-adherence to heart failure guidelines