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?
- Part I: Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health
- Chronic Pain Isn't All In The Brain
- Smoking, Drinking And Eating: It's Not About Your Freedom
- Violence, Sex And Taboo: The Original Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales Back In Print
- Part II: Bee Deaths And CCD - Flawed Chensheng Lu Harvard Studies Endanger Bees
- On integrating out short-distance physics
- Is The Micropower Revolution Here?
- "There is no question they were created to cater to universities and are staffed by people from..."
- "And my second link should be not a copy of the first, but this: http://www.nature.com/news/half..."
- "Recently I saw The Conversation remove/censor legitimate comments arguing against an article written..."
- tags because there's no testing..." href="/robert_inventor/why_we_cant_backup_earth_on_mars_the_moon_or_anywhere_else_in_our_solar_system-148364#comment-182183">"Robert, you might want to reformat my post. I intended to highlight only the headlines for easy..."
- "My only complaint with good thinkers and writers has hither always been that they should produce..."
- New treatments for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease: thanks pigs
- Happy Thanksgiving, kids: Experience with family verbal conflict as a child helps prepare them for adulthood
- Fragile X study offers hope of new autism treatment
- 'Good fat' could help manage type 2 diabetes
- OU professor and team discover first evidence of milk consumption in ancient dental plaque