[extropy-chat] Calling all EvoPsych Jedi...

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Thu May 5 20:03:32 UTC 2005

Jeff Medina wrote:

>I keep coming across professors badmouthing evolutionary psychology as
>a junk field. I've read some basics, mostly Cosmides and/or Tooby, but
>fail to see why it has become such a popular whipping boy.

>Am I missing something here based on an insufficiently deep knowledge
>of EP? Can anyone shed some light on why so many professors seem to
>think EP is crap?
Jeff -

I think a large part of this results from a movement that gathered 
momentum in the humanities departments of many universities during the 
middle decades of the last century in large part as a reaction to acts 
committed in the early twentieth century and justified in the name of 
science, e.g. eugenics, the holocaust.  They strongly bought into the 
premise that the human mind is a "blank slate" and all significant 
behavioral characteristics are learned from the social environment.  
This is overly simplified, of course, but the timing and societal 
background were conducive to this kind of thinking with the rise of 
science and industry and the effects of two world wars quite fresh in 
the popular mind. Developments in anthropology such as Margaret Mead's 
_Coming of Age in Samoa_, although methodologically flawed, also played 
to the idea of a "noble savage" untainted by modern culture, and much 
later, the hippie movement and the Vietnam war deepened these roots 
within academia.

It has only been during the last 10 to 15 years, I estimate, that 
developments in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology are now 
making an impact with their explanatory power, with the accompanying 
backlash from those who based their entire academic reputation on those 
strongly felt and righteous beliefs.

- Jef

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