Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Felix

Evolutionary Psychology

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Hey! No fair adding two paragraphs in an edit.

That is what happens when I am thinking while posting instead of thinking before I post~

Sorry.

I think that I understand your approach. There is a fine line though between heathy skepticism and agnosticism. In a circumstance like this, I don't think Ifat is off mark to say that

Agnosticism? I am not claiming that it is not possible to have absolute or certain knowledge.

When we choose to focus there is a physical change occuring in our brain. Like you said:

The experiences of our mind are what is happening in our brain.

But what triggers that initial choice to choose to focus?

Edited by ~Sophia~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree with that, but that seems more relevent to the direction of causation. Not to whether there is in fact a physical element attached to the minds activities.

The context of this discussion was that Ifat, challenged the notion that psychology of a healthy human (without brain defects) is NOT determined by genetic blueprint. Her argument was that everything, including our ability to choose, is driven by deterministic biochemical/physical processes.

She argued for a specific direction of causation, was she not?

That is what I am challenging.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But what triggers that initial choice to choose to focus?

It might just be a realization that everyone comes to naturally. External circumstances and body-states are going to provide everyone with the experience that they are more mentally acute on some occasions then on others. Certainly being provided with explicit knowledge of that capacity ( being told, "you can choose to focus.") would give you the impetus to move in that direction.

The context of this discussion was that Ifat, challenged the notion that psychology of a healthy human (without brain defects) is NOT determined by genetic blueprint. Her argument was that everything, including our ability to choose, is driven by deterministic biochemical/physical processes.

She argued for a specific direction of causation, was she not?

That is what I am challenging.

Oh...I see. She might need to answer, but I understood her to be saying that physically, something in the brain must exist to allow for the capacity of freewill. If my frontal lobes were accidentally removed during a apendectomy, I would probably no longer have freewill. So the capacity could be understood to be derived from the physicality in this sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
something in the brain must exist to allow for the capacity of freewill

Obviously. Yes, no brain no capacity. I was not disputing that. I can see how my first post may have given that idea just based on my choice of quotations.

'

I am in agreement with previous posters on this thread that 'one has actual control over one's psychology' and genes play a very minor role.

Edited by ~Sophia~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know that many (all?) Objectivists are opposed to the theory of evolution when it is applied to human psychology. Just wondering if someone would offer me a brief explanation why.

It is difficult for me to understand how someone could view our psyches as having been somehow isolated from the process of evolution, when every part of our bodies--brains included--were shaped by natural selection. I suppose you can make the argument that we are fundamentally different from the rest of the animal kingdom because of our capacity to reason, but I would point out that our capacity to reason is not the only thing that makes up our psychology. When looking at wild animals, I doubt that anyone will argue that the sexual promiscuity of males and sexual selectivity of females have clear evolutionary explanations. Likewise for the presence of fear in the face of a predator. Both of these examples also apply to the human species. How do you explain these without reference to evolutionary psychology? Or have I completely misread the Objectivist stance on this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Or have I completely misread the Objectivist stance on this?

There is no Objectivist stance on any question of science, but this Objectivist has a stance.

The main problem is that evolutionary psychology is mainly just a set of plausible narratives with no evidence as to what actually happened. What single conclusion in the entire field has or will ever reach the standard of certainty that evolution itself has?

Edited by Grames

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Genetic factors may present you with different opportunities/limitations; THAT is what they influence, NOT your behavior. They DON'T force you to take up those opportunities or succumb to those limitations. Women in my family "tend" to be Rubenesque. But if you ask "why" am I fat, the answer is: I eat too much, and don't exercise enough. Why? I choose to. End of story.

Careful. What you are stating is actually an assumption: weight is not controlled entirely by caloric intake and expenditure. It is possible to lose weight by eating more (calorically) and exercising less. I've done that myself by changing the way I eat (the Paleo diet).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Careful. What you are stating is actually an assumption: weight is not controlled entirely by caloric intake and expenditure. It is possible to lose weight by eating more (calorically) and exercising less. I've done that myself by changing the way I eat (the Paleo diet).

You don't get to be 350 pounds by eating the "wrong kind" of calories. I eat TOO MANY calories.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You don't get to be 350 pounds by eating the "wrong kind" of calories. I eat TOO MANY calories.

Actually, that's exactly how you get to be that heavy. It's not calories that make you fat; it's carbs. A high carb intake drives up insulin levels, which then drives fat storage; without the carbs, insulin is kept low and fat tends to come out of storage and get burned or excreted. Carbs also cause wide blood sugar swings, which make you hungry if you simply try to uniformly reduce intake. Lots of good research, documentation, books and personal experiences out there to back me up, if you're interested.

As an example, Jimmy Moore started at 410 pounds and lost about 200 pounds in a year by eliminating carbs: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/

A few good blogs about Paleo:

http://www.paleonu.com/

http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/

http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/

http://drbganimalpharm.blogspot.com/

Books:

Good Calories, Bad Calories

Natural Health & Weight Loss

The Protein Power Lifeplan

There's also an email list for Objectivists who are following this approach. See http://www.olist.com/oevolve/

Of course, not wanting to examine one's beliefs is also a choice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Of course, not wanting to examine one's beliefs is also a choice.

OH, I'm SOOOOO sorry for not FALLING ON YOUR NECK IN GRATITUDE for your INCREDIBLY rude unsolicited "advice" regarding something I already know. (Diana Hsieh is a friend of mine. I read about paleo all the time, and I've even tried it out when I've had the opportunity.) I must be some kind of HORRIBLE person who NEVER examines her "Beliefs" at ALL.

Maybe next time you'll have the good grace to keep your nose out of what isn't any of your business. I'd try actually being polite about it, but I've increasingly discovered that there is no depth of rude intrusive behavior that people with so-called "good intentions" won't stoop to in order to "help" us poor misguided fatties.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
OH, I'm SOOOOO sorry for not FALLING ON YOUR NECK IN GRATITUDE for your INCREDIBLY rude unsolicited "advice" regarding something I already know. (Diana Hsieh is a friend of mine. I read about paleo all the time, and I've even tried it out when I've had the opportunity.) I must be some kind of HORRIBLE person who NEVER examines her "Beliefs" at ALL.

Maybe next time you'll have the good grace to keep your nose out of what isn't any of your business. I'd try actually being polite about it, but I've increasingly discovered that there is no depth of rude intrusive behavior that people with so-called "good intentions" won't stoop to in order to "help" us poor misguided fatties.

Sorry you apparently interpreted it as hostile and rude; that certainly wasn't my intention.

I actually couldn't care less what you do. I don't know you beyond your posts here, and I'm definitely not looking for gratitude.

You were the one who brought up the issue; I was simply trying to point out what I viewed as a flaw in your logic, and to then support my comments -- which, BTW, is part of what this forum is generally all about, right? Objectively examining the world around us? The fact that you obviously don't agree is fine with me; each of us has to walk our own path.

Regarding the whole "misguided fatty" thing -- those are your words, not mine. You know nothing about me, or my personal history or struggles. Certainly not enough to reasonably make such a comment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[Mod's note: Merged with earlier thread.  -sN]

 

 

I have been recently looking into evolutionary psychology and I find this to be a means of fraudulently representing the true science. Does anyone else have any knowledge/thoughts on this psuedo science? Is this area of psychology in any way meaningful?


Can one use a cross-cultural analysis of human behaviors in order to theorize evolved human behaviors? I see huge flaws in this methodlogy, but I want to know if others think that this methodology can possibly produce a reliable interpertation of human behaviors.

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been recently looking into evolutionary psychology and I find this to be a means of fraudulently representing the true science. Does anyone else have any knowledge/thoughts on this psuedo science? Is this area of psychology in any way meaningful?

Can one use a cross-cultural analysis of human behaviors in order to theorize evolved human behaviors? I see huge flaws in this methodlogy, but I want to know if others think that this methodology can possibly produce a reliable interpertation of human behaviors.

Is there a particular assertion made in the name of “evolutionary psychology” that you object to? As stated, you seem to be objecting to any inferring of conclusions (or even hypotheses) about human behavior from culture and recorded history. If so, what kind of data set would you approve of?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mill's methods of induction can be applied in that subject area as validly as anywhere else, but it is true that isolating variables is more difficult when it comes to human psychology. Biologically based methods such as twin studies can supplement cross cultural studies to help discriminate natural behaviors from cultural behavior. When a certain behavior is found universally in all cultures that is not proof of an evolutionary cause but a single example on the behavior being absent within a culture can rule it out as caused by evolution.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not a fan of evolutionary psychology myself, but I thought I would share this video which argues against Jerry Fodor's objections to evolutionary psychology and natural selection in general. Not for the philosophic lightweight, mind you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Evolutionary psychology is one of those areas rife with "just-so stories". It is easy enough to come up with plausible-sounding evolutionary "explanations" for aspects of human behaviour, but I have yet to see any that are better than informed speculation. Basically, if you regard evolutionary psychology as a fledgling field putting forward hypotheses that might be testable, that's one thing. But I wouldn't regard any of its claims as anywhere near certain. The main problem is the one you see frequently where they attempt to "explain" human behaviour by genetics, environment, peer groups etc: the one thing they always leave out is that people make decisions using their minds - unless they choose not to bother using their minds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Evolutionary psychology is one of those areas rife with "just-so stories".

I couldn't agree more. When I've read or heard those sorts of explanations, it usually occurs to me that I can think of 3 or several alternate explanations that sound every bit as viable. A have to call bullshit, but still admit that it is often enjoyable to read. Especially Desmond Morris.

If you enjoy satire, http://faultline.org/site/comments/belief_in_evolutionary_psychology_may_be_hardwired_study_says/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The main problem is the one you see frequently where they attempt to "explain" human behaviour by genetics, environment, peer groups etc: the one thing they always leave out is that people make decisions using their minds - unless they choose not to bother using their minds.

Could it be that what evolutionary psychology is actually discovering (assuming for the moment it isn't complete garbage) is what people will tend to do when they don't, as you put it "bother using their minds"? In other words, is there a "default" behavior people engage in when they don't think, and is it determined by evolutionary selection pressures? When one considers that the rational faculty is a relatively recent development that made some sort of mere animal into a human being, is it possible that that last non-rational ancestor of ours was fully describable by evo-psych? Or to put it yet another way, the sorts of phenomena evo-psych claims to be discovering operate at a certain level, but for us it's a lower level, lower than our rational faculties, and thus we humans have the capacity to override it. But other animals do not have that level so they cannot. [i note as an aside that many more highly intelligent animals--including us--can "learn" or be trained even at a non-conceptual level, and that level may or may not also be higher than this hypothetical evo-psych-programmed layer.]

If this notion is correct, I would expect evo-psychological methods to explain (other) animals' behavior with high correlation. But it would not explain ours all that well; the correlations should be very weak because of the number of times we overrride our evo-psych "programming." As such, studying (other) animals instead of humans could be a way to control for a rational faculty "interfering" with whatever evo-psych claims to be studying.

I'd certainly condemn as silly any claim an evo-psych worker (or anyone else) makes that we do not have a rational faculty and that our behavior is perfectly explained by their discipline. They would be making the same mistake that Skinner made when applying insights on training animals to people.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could it be that what evolutionary psychology is actually discovering (assuming for the moment it isn't complete garbage) is what people will tend to do when they don't, as you put it "bother using their minds"? In other words, is there a "default" behavior people engage in when they don't think, and is it determined by evolutionary selection pressures?

I think that is quite possible, indeed likely. There are certainly aspects of evolutionary psychology that I think are likely to be true. But at this stage of science, in most case it is more plausible theorising/most likely explanation than proven fact.

One good example. There are certainly obvious differences between men and women in terms of strength and aggressiveness, and the known cause is sex hormones, and by looking at us and our primate relatives, and evolutionary principles in general, it is pretty clear that there is an evolutionary cause of this male-female difference in physique and psychology. It even comes through into Ayn Rand's philosophy in her understanding of masculinity vs femininity.

But even that, which off the top of my head I consider the strongest "evolutionary psychology" idea, there is a big variation between people, a sizeable overlap between men and women, and how it manifests itself in your personal behaviour depends on the content of your mind. In regard to Rand's philosophy, it is interesting that despite the overlap between men and women in assertiveness and aggression, women at the high end of that scale tend to want a man who is even higher. But even then, there are exceptions (though to what extent such exceptions are pathological is a different question and beyond my scope!).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think there is much reason to assume that humans don't have some instincts, in addition to thinking with our minds (our frontal lobes). In the human race's descent out of animal, we slowly got rid of these instincts, over a long period of time. Just because we are not animals, doesn't mean we don't have some instinctual pulls. Humans are just a very sophistocated species of mammals, and like everything in nature, it's safe to assert that we are pulled in certain ways by biology. Before technology, instincts helped drive our survival. It is a fair hypothesis to say that we are wired genetically to function ideally in our cultural environments, given what one observes. In the days before technology, you can assume that many hands were better than one and thus people were more dependent on each other to survive to do the hunting and gathering, plant the crop etc. so you can understand that for example altruistic behavior might be sexually selected through human instincts. There have been multiple genes linked to altruistic behavior in evolutionary psychology. I think this is mostly the reason behind the evil we face today with corruption and religion. There are not enough people who use their minds and too many who let themselves be driven by their irrational forces.

Take for example, oriental cultures like China and Japan. Do you think it's a coincidence and not a product of eugenics/sexual selection that they operate the way they do? If genes can influence our intellectual ability (which obviously they have been proven to) how would it be impossible for them to influence our responses, our likes and dislikes, our personality etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×