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