This topic has recently come up in another thread & deserves its own thread, rather than getting lost there.
It started with KN asking CharlieM: “Are there really such ‘Darwinian extremists’ or are you just making them up?”
I responded: “The list of Darwinian extremists in SSH is considerable, not that it’s likely anyone here is even aware of this, such that they could come up with a list themselves.” http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/what-mixture-of-design-and-evolution-is-possible-as-the-idm-collapses/comment-page-24/#comment-279711
So far, we’ve seen only a couple of names there (Daniel Dennett & David Barash – both not psychologists, and Tooby & Cosmides, the latter who are indeed key figures in the ’emergence’ of eVopsych, in the wake of the sociobiology scandal), and no one here has yet shown much familiarity with this ‘subfield’ of psychology. If it’s in fact so badly wrong-headed, then why not say more specifically why and how?
KN asked: “is evolutionary psychology still popular? I don’t know any philosophers who have much respect for it.”
So I sent quick links to recent papers published in “eVopsych”. The philosophers are of course largely unimportant here. It’s the psychologists who matter most on this topic, and what we see is atheist and agnostic psychologists, not religious psychologists flirting with and sometimes openly adopting eVopsych. Why is that? Does it perhaps have anything to do with the requirement of first accepting ideological naturalism as a precondition for accepting eVopsych?
In my view, as I wrote in the other thread, “eVopsych might be among the most atheist- or agnostic-dominated fields in the history of the Academy. … Every single work of eVopsych I have come across either explicitly or implicitly promotes atheism or agnosticism.”
Yet KN replied: “On the face of it, I’m less persuaded that religion or lack thereof plays a determining role. But maybe?”
Yes, it’s quite obvious when taking a closer look than just the face of it (which is also quite obvious). Why then is not a single self-labelled “evolutionary psychologist” an Abrahamic monotheist? If anyone here can locate one, then we’ll be able to discuss the exception. A challenge laid down for the “skeptics” here at TSZ! I’ve looked around the world and haven’t found a single one, though there are Abrahamic monotheists who have adopted and accept one or a few elements of eVopsych, just not as a whole.
BioLogos once attempted to promote eVopsych via Justin Barrett and the push-back from everyone there gave it the biggest thrashing I’ve seen at BioLogos. The presumptuous quasi-eVopsych experiment went no further there.
KN called eVopsych “pseudo-science” and said “I quickly gave up on it and haven’t paid it any attention since.”
Allen Miller wrote: “EP is simply ‘story-telling’, lacking [that] rigour.” … “Stick me on the ‘atheists disinterested in evolutionary psychology’ pile. There are, I think, areas of our behavioural repertoire shaped by evolution, but that’s a long way from presuming to say which they are.”
Ah, so the problem is primarily the presumption, rather than the application of “evolution” to psychology?
KN notes: “There’s a difference between claiming that some general feature of human beings — say, culture or language — is a result of natural selection and saying that we can specify which traits of modern humans were the result of long-past selective pressures.”
Yes, I agree. And I don’t think one should use “natural selection” for culture or language, but rather “human selection”, thus diverging from Darwin and taking up anti-Darwinism with A.R. Wallace, who afaik coined the term “human selection.” Culture and language are predominantly about human selection (largely purposeful, goal-oriented, plan-like; i.e. teleological), not merely “natural selection” (lacking ‘agency’ – don’t get distracted by this) on the biological or organic level.
KN loosely claims: “I would say that evolutionary explanations are good for [some] inquiries and not good for others.”
Could he please be more specific: which inquiries are “evolutionary explanations” not good for? Does this mean psychology as a field is “not good” for “evolutionary explanations” or rather that he really believes “some evolutionary explanations are allowed” in psychology too? If the latter, what distinguishes when such evolutionary explanations in psychology are “good” or “not good” to use?
The topic suits well when people are honestly and openly grappling with the thought of “things that don’t evolve”. I don’t currently have time for more. That’s enough to get it started.