David Brooks takes on evolutionary psychology and gets it sort of right:

The first problem is that far from being preprogrammed with a series of hardwired mental modules, as the E.P. types assert, our brains are fluid and plastic. We’re learning that evolution can be a more rapid process than we thought. It doesn’t take hundreds of thousands of years to produce genetic alterations.

Moreover, we’ve evolved to adapt to diverse environments. Different circumstances can selectively activate different genetic potentials. Individual behavior can vary wildly from one context to another. An arrogant bully on the playground may be meek in math class. People have kaleidoscopic thinking styles and use different cognitive strategies to solve the same sorts of problems.

Evolutionary psychology leaves the impression that human nature was carved a hundred thousand years ago, and then history sort of stopped....

The brain is flexible - it's more than sum of the selective pressures we've experienced over the course of human evolution; like a universal Turing Machine, once human intelligence and consciousness reached a certain point, it became capable of functions that weren't specifically selected for.

However, our brains are products of an evolutionary history, they exhibit signs of that evolutionary history, and selection pressures operating 10,000 and 100,000 and 1 million years ago left features that may not be perfectly suited to today's world. Sexual selection surely played some role, and, although our minds are pliable, we're shaped more by nature than many of us would like to think.

Here's what Brooks should have said:

1) Evolutionary psychology is rife with untested and untestable hypotheses. If you want to speculate about how sexual selection or pre-historic life in the African wilderness shaped the human brain, fine, but you don't know whether you're right (and it's not science) until you start putting your ideas to the test. Evolutionary psychologists are too frequently satisfied with simply cooking up possible evolutionary scenarios. We really don't know whether any of them are true, and in some cases, we can probably never know.

2) Evolutionary psychology is excessively adaptationist: every feature has to be explained by selection, and yet we know that's not true. Evolution is more than natural and sexual selection. Sometimes you have design compromises - one trait turns out a certain way as a side effect of selection for another trait. And sometimes things just happen. Evolution is about more than adaptation, but evolutionary psychologists love to explain everything in terms of adaptation.

The mind is not a blank state: it's a biological phenomenon, and no deep understanding of anything in biology is possible without taking into account evolution. But without the rigor of the scientific method, evolutionary psychology easily degenrates into a parlor game.