Posts Tagged ‘evolutionary psychology’


“Making sense” is a funny phrase, because we use it to mean two different things. In the first place, we use it to mean “making logical sense” — that is, a conclusion follows directly from available data according to the strict and very specific laws and modes of logical reasoning; in the second place, we use it to mean, “seems intuitive” — that is, when we hear a scenario, and we hear the prediction made for that scenario, it seems “right” or “familiar” to us. We use this term precisely to muddy up the difference between “logical sense” and “intuitive sense”, and it’s unfortunate, because while logical sense is verifiable and repeatable, intuitive sense is based on predictions made from past experience, and is therefore only as accurate as the experience is representative, and furthermore is essentially tantamount to saying “that’s true because it’s familiar.”

Today I want to talk about the “science” of Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary Psychology is a pretty fun thing, because what it consists of is: you observe some behaviors, notice a couple statistical facts, and then make up a story to explain why cavemen had to do it that way. Is it true? Is it false? Is it genetic, or cultural? Who knows, or cares? It’s not like we’ve got a bunch of cavemen sitting around that we can ask about it, who knows what those guys thought? And it’s not like we can just crack open some DNA and find the gene for “wearing pants” or for “wanting to have a lot of sex with women,” or something.

It’s less like a science and more like a kind of weird game, I guess. Anyway, almost inevitably, it’s used by douchebags to justify being douchebags (“observe douchey behavior, make up a story about why cavemen were douchebags”), and I just wanted to point out that there are couple of ideas that only make it LOOK, for instance, like the human race is naturally inclined towards patriarchy, but with a little imagination you can make an equally compelling story for how it’s maybe the other way around.


feminismThe topic of evolutionary psychology has come up, a couple times, when I hang out with feminists.  Now, I generally consider myself to be a feminist, but the fact is that not everyone who thinks they’re a feminist is one; I will err on the side of caution here, and leave the decision as to whether I get to be in the club up to the people that have the most significant vested interest.

In any case, I want to take a minute and talk about evolutionary psychology, its relationship to the patriarchy, and why biological determinism is stupid.