Darwinian Psychology-Part I: An Introduction

I am going to write an ongoing series on Darwinian Psychology (aka Evolutionary Psychology). Unfortunately, my chosen field (psychology) has probably generated more “just so”(1,2) stories than has biology. Paleontologist and Darwinist, Stephen J. Gould, wrote about “Darwinian Fundamentalism”,(3) and specifically singled out Darwinian Psychology for criticism. He also noted the similarity between Darwinism and fundamentalism:

But since the modern ultras [Ultra Darwinists] push their line with an almost theological fervor, and since the views of founding fathers do matter in religion, though supposedly not in science, Darwin’s own fierce opposition does become a factor in judgment.(3)

Equivalent of Darwinian Just So Story

Equivalent of Darwinian Just So Story

I have noted an interesting phenomena among scientists and in “scientific” writings. Presenting a Darwinian “just so” story for the phenomena that you are discussing seems to provide the research with a veneer of scientific credibility. It is as if a Darwinian “just so” story is a suitable substitute for empirical data.

For those who study persuasion, they will note a similar phenomena in the general population. For example, people dressed in a suit and tie are more persuasive than those not dressed in this manner.(4) Authority is conferred to individuals dressed in this manner.  For those of us who worked in an hospital setting in graduate school, we were always excited when we were able to wear a white lab coat, because the patients listened to us better and were more apt to follow our instructions.

As an aside, this may be related to evolutionary factors indicating intelligence. Intelligence among our ancestors may have been displayed by having unique abilities (such as making unique tools or being able to communicate in a way that less intelligent apes could not understand).[1] Over time, our ancestors would have developed a mutation to recognize these symbols as promoting survival, and would have thus been more attracted to individuals who displayed these symbols. [Yes, I’m being sarcastic here.]

So, I hope you enjoy this forthcoming series analyzing pseudoscientific Darwinian Psychology.  There is a wealth of material upon which to draw.  The motto for this area seems to be, “If it sounds good and references evolution, then it is science.”

—References—

(1) Just So Stories, Wikipedia
(2) Darwin Says “Just So…”
(3) Darwinian Fundamentalism, Stephen J. Gould, (1997)
(4) Perceived Symbols of Authority and Their Influence on Compliance, Bushman, B.J. (1984)

—Notes—
[1]. I have generated a Darwinian Just So Story to help provide credibility to this post. Did it work?

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4 Responses

  1. As an aside, this may be related to evolutionary factors indicating intelligence. Intelligence among our ancestors may have been displayed by having unique abilities (such as making unique tools or being able to communicate in a way that less intelligent apes could not understand).

    So it evidently, according to your “just so” story, is possible then to fool all the people all of the time, especially those gullible and empty headed middle and high school kids!;-)

  2. Over time, our ancestors would have developed a mutation to recognize these symbols as promoting survival, and would have thus been more attracted to individuals who displayed these symbols. [Yes, I’m being sarcastic here.]

    But sarcasm may be selected for because it is linked to intelligence.

    So you haven’t escaped the hypothetical goo of evolution quite yet. It explains everything, that’s why it’s so overwhelming! In fact, I think I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by how scientific I was when explaining your sarcasm. If only I had a white lab coat then maybe I could give a little lecture about what science is and isn’t and so on.

  3. …is possible then to fool all the people all of the time, especially those gullible and empty headed middle and high school kids!

    Actually I think it is harder to fool students now than in the past but unfortunately people tend to shift from the mythology of Progress and modernism to postmodernism by willfully fooling themselves by choosing to make use of the mental illusions typical to relativism, etc. Some do put science on a pedestal of purity and objectivity and apply relativism to everything else but ultimately even if they realize that “science” is made up of a bunch of subjective people with good and bad history just like every other form of human knowledge they’ll turn towards postmodernism instead of a traditional and venerable faith in reason. After all, the faith in reason that created schools and universities in the first place is not “allowed” in schools anymore.

  4. After all, the faith in reason that created schools and universities in the first place is not “allowed” in schools anymore.

    Amen!

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