Atheists, Agnostics & ‘Skeptics’ for and against the Pseudo-Science of ‘Evolutionary Psychology’

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.

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177 thoughts on “Atheists, Agnostics & ‘Skeptics’ for and against the Pseudo-Science of ‘Evolutionary Psychology’

  1. Gregory:

    I’m curious as to what you would consider an atheist bias. As I recall, on this site we have gone into some detail as to the different sorts of atheists. Briefly, there are strong atheists who flat deny there are any gods and no evidence would make any difference. There are weak atheists who are open to the gods if sufficient appropriate evidence is presented. There are indifferent atheists, for whom religion is unimportant and plays no role in their lives (or thoughts). And I suppose there are “equal opportunity” atheists who regard the beliefs of most religions as organized superstitions, all pretty much equal in terms of empirical nonsupport but of critical importance to the believers.

    So far, at least as much as I can tell, you regard “atheist bias” as the lack of religious associations or overtones where such associations or overtones might be relevant or sensible. Is that about right?

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  2. Gregory: What are those ideological biases, in your view, since you seem to deny, though haven’t stated this directly (“maybe?”) that they include atheism &/or agnosticism? How would you “characterize” the “ideological biases” that you see (after admittedly not having looked at it in a while) in eVopsych? Common labels for brevity’s sake would be preferred here to long explanations (e.g. about modularity).

    The “maybe” I indicated several posts ago was just a signal that I’m open to hearing your argument here.

    I haven’t looked at Evolutionary Psychology in a while, and I don’t intend to now — I have way too much to do in my real-life job! — so everything I say here is intended to be taken with many grains of salt. I am quite far out of my depth.

    (Following Smith’s convention, I shall capitalize Evolutionary Psychology when referring to the research program of John Tooby, Leda Cosmides, Donald Buss, Steven Pinker etc., to distinguish it from the far more vague and generic thought that the human mind can be explained in evolutionary terms of some sort or other.)

    So, let me start with a story.

    This weekend I was playing with my partner’s cats, and she explained that cats are ambush predators, so one needs to simulate a prey animal moving around in order to trigger the hunting behavior. Then she said that we had to give the cats treats after play, because the whole behavioral cycle is hunt-eat-groom-sleep.

    This got me thinking about how our understanding of this domesticated animal is based on our understanding of its wild ancestors. And I’ve observed something similar in relatives who train their dogs from puppies: the first thing to do is condition the puppy to understand that it is the lowest-ranking member of the pack (the family).

    All this seems rather similar to Evolutionary Psychology in the following sense: the idea is that if you want to manipulate an animal’s behavior in the here-and-now, you need to understand the evolutionary origins and ecological function of that behavior.

    Evolutionary Psychology could then be understood as follows: there’s nothing distinct about human beings that distinguishes them from other behaviorally complicated mammals, so the same principles that allow us to understand them also should be applied to us.

    For lack of a better term, let’s call this attitude “extreme anti-exceptionalism”.

    Now, the big problem (as I see it) with extreme anti-exceptionalism is that, since it denies that there’s anything unique about human beings, must omit the role of culture in human life. So culture & history end up being cut out of the whole picture. They are, at best, a mere veneer laid on top of the underlying, ‘real’ cognitive mechanisms that (supposedly) haven’t changed since the Paleolithic.

    Frans de Waal, writing about the evolution of morality in primates, criticizes what he calls “the veneer theory of morality”: the idea that morality is a very late development that goes on top of, so to speak, underlying and more deeply encoded egoism and competitiveness. (He blames Hobbes for having started this. I’m not entirely convinced that that’s right.)

    So we might say that Evolutionary Psychology is committed to a veneer theory of culture.

    This invites the question: why would a veneer theory of culture even seem reasonable or compelling to anyone?

    I don’t have a good answer to this, but it seems to be the right sort of question: why did ignoring the role of culture even seem like a plausible way of explaining human cognition?

    I do think that’s the right way of looking at the issue because it illuminates the theoretical convergence with computational cognitive psychology, which also downplayed the role of learning. It was committed to psychological nativism. I would go far as to say that without psychological nativism, Evolutionary Psychology does not make sense even at a conceptual level. So the question that’s most interesting to me at this juncture is, what social and political factors go into making psychological nativism seem attractive and compelling?

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  3. Flint,

    As far as I can tell, Gregory appears to be taking the view that atheism is co-extensive with metaphysical naturalism. I thought that was the point of his contrast between Darwin and Wallace: unlike Darwin, Wallace held that some kind of intelligent power that has guided the evolution of the human mind.

    The thought is, one would need to be dogmatically committed to metaphysical naturalism in order to exclude a Wallace-kind explanation, and only then would it make sense to try and explain the human mind in the same principles that we use in explaining the evolution of photosynthesis or flight.

    If one thought about the issue in those terms, then it might make sense to say that atheism (that is, naturalism) is an ideological presupposition of evolutionary psychology.

    Needless to say, that’s not I see the situation — but I can understand how one could.

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  4. A few quotations to start:

    “American psychology today owes its form and substance as much to the influence of evolutionary theory as to any other idea or individual.” – Duane Schultz (A History of Modern Psychology, 2nd edition,1975)

    “Evolutionary psychology (EP) is an approach to all of psychology, not simply another specialty within psychology, such as learning or perception.” … “Kin selection, whereby altruism is systematically aimed at other carriers of the same altruistic allele, can explain altruism and is consistent with a large literature on animal behavior.” – Steven Gaulin and Donald McBurney (Evolutionary Psychology, 2nd edition, 2004)

    “Sociologists have been blindsided by evolutionary psychologists who invoke concepts like ‘kin selection’, ‘reciprocal altruism’, and ‘indirect reciprocity’ to capture what they allege to be the biological bases of all social behaviour.” – Steve Fuller (2006)

    KN is getting closer to the main problems with eVopsych when he notes the “extreme anti-exceptionalism” of eVopsychs regarding humanity. This is of course predicated on their worldview, where KN is also right to identify that “atheism (that is, naturalism) is an ideological presupposition of evolutionary psychology,” though he apparently disagrees with this. However, naturalism need not be atheistic, as there are also “religious naturalists”, who indeed are theists (though “religious naturalism” is not my personal position). Nevertheless, Schultz admitted openly that the early history of eVopsych was driven by the desire to seek an alternative explanation to the biblical account of Divine Creation, which is also present in most of the ‘explanations’ sought by the ‘skeptics’ of TSZ.

    Returning to the Darwin-Wallace conversation, which KN raised again, Wallace wrote in 1864: “These views give us an argument to place man in a special category, a new order of organisms.” Darwin wrote “No!!!” (three times underlined) on the margin of Wallace’s essay. Darwin himself was an anti-exceptionalist, which others have called “species egalitarian”. Behind this approach was Darwin’s departure from faith in God as the Creator of humankind, including himself, and also his daughter Annie, whose loss troubled Darwin’s worldview deeply. Darwin had already written years earlier (Notebooks, 1837): “We may all be melted together.” Had Darwin remained a Christian, he would not have “shrunk” humanity to being ‘just another animal’, but instead would have viewed human beings as Abrahamic monotheist believers still do today, as “unique” and “exceptional” on Earth.

    This is from my own published output on this topic:

    “Evolutionary psychology perpetuates a kind of ‘zoocentric misanthropy’ (Fuller, 2006) that warps people’s perceptions of meaningful human identity. Evolutionary psychologists have ideologically distanced themselves from the traditional philosophical/theological meaning of human beings as ‘created in the image of God’ and as different in ‘kind’ from (other) animals. Why do evolutionary psychologists insist on treating human beings with positivistic misanthropic methods rather than with reflexive anthropic methods?” … “when evolutionary psychology draws upon ethology and animal behaviour as sources for knowledge about particularly human ethics, it effectively departs from the proper realm of those various disciplines that are concerned purely with humanity. Evolutionary psychology then becomes no longer a human-social scientific field, but a field that confuses (or merges) human beings with all other animals. The presumptions of such a view are considerably destructive of the historical project of SSH. This is why they should be opposed. Evolutionary psychology seen in this light has become more an instrument of naturalistic and atheistic ideologies than a legitimate science worth giving attention or credit to.”

    When KN turns to culture, he is at least halfway on the right track, though philosophistry and scientism seem always to divert him away from ‘spiritual’ toward merely ‘natural’ meaning. Once the topic of ‘culture’ is allowed in the door, then ‘religion’ and ‘faith’ must also be allowed to enter the discussion. This IS an answer to KN’s query, but it’s one that as a secular Jew, as he has volunteered about himself here at TSZ, his preference will again likely be not to accept. Darwin was not too different, in saying (1879), “For myself, I do not believe that there ever has been any revelation.” It’s a similar issue for secular Jews, in stark contrast with religious Jews, who do indeed believe in and embrace ‘divine revelation,’ the manifestation of God to humankind.

    P. Chaadaev had identified such a problem well before OoS was published: “When philosophy occupies itself with the animal man it ceases to be a philosophy of man and becomes a philosophy of animals, a chapter of zoology dealing with man.” (1829) This problem of focus was met later by a Ukrainian Orthodox Christian, geneticist and key figure in the “modern evolutionary synthesis,” Theodosius Dobzhanksy, who insisted that, “Ethics are acquired, not biologically inherited.” (1977) Dobzhansky also noted that, “Darwin’s theory was good biology which was perverted by others to support bad sociology.” The same can be said regarding applications of ‘evolution’ to psychology in eVopsych, which it seems that (almost) everyone here can agree about, even if they leave out the motivations and worldview of eVopsych proponents.

    For those who prefer not to focus mainly on religious and spiritual themes, here’s a strong critique of eVopsych from a part-time professor and practising psychologist. https://modernpsychologist.ca/critique-of-evolutionary-psychology/

    One of course doesn’t have to believe in God to be a critic of eVopsych. But if one doesn’t recognize that the key founding motivation of eVopsych was to provide an explanation of human origins, development, and yes, also human cognition, that excluded any notion of humanity’s relationship with God or of a “spiritual” dimension to human life, then their (NB: ‘atheist bias’ response to Flint) critique of eVopsych will likely be quite superficial and incomplete. When seeking to understand ‘transevolutionary change’, psychology can finally once again break free from ‘evolutionary’ ideas, to instead seek a strong basis for understanding ‘human extension’ in the here and now, rather than trying to find explanations from hundreds of thousands of years ago for today’s behaviours and choices.

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  5. Gregory:

    One of course doesn’t have to believe in God to be a critic of eVopsych. But if one doesn’t recognize that the key founding motivation of eVopsych was to provide an explanation of human origins, development, and yes, also human cognition, that excluded any notion of humanity’s relationship with God or of a “spiritual” dimension to human life, then their (NB: ‘atheist bias’ response to Flint) critique of eVopsych will likely be quite superficial and incomplete. When seeking to understand ‘transevolutionary change’, psychology can finally once again break free from ‘evolutionary’ ideas, to instead seek a strong basis for understanding ‘human extension’ in the here and now, rather than trying to find explanations from hundreds of thousands of years ago for today’s behaviours and choices.

    Most of this long screed is in a vernacular I do not share. But just as a suggestion, perhaps you should insert the word Christian where it applies. You write of “God” where you mean the Christian god and nobody else’s. You write of “biblical” understandings when you actually intend Christian biblical understandings. You write about “creation” when you actually intend the Christian myth of creation. To someone who does not share (and has not blindly taken for granted the precepts of) your religion, these presumptive omissions are quite glaring.

    I think I disagree with KN here. You don’t so much imply that an “atheist” is someone committed to metaphysical naturalism, as that it is someone NOT committed to the Christian view of the world, complete with gods and poof creations and inerrant Christian holy scriptures.

    I wonder how you would respond if someone here, a devout Hindu, larded his posts with a taken-for-granted Hindu worldview, built and managed by Hindu gods, and who regarded YOUR tacit avoidance of the Hindu faith as de facto atheism. From his viewpoint, you might as well be an atheist, since you clearly have no respect for the One True Faith.

    (Hindus have their own creation myths, and one wonders whether “evolutionary psychologists” in India would be regarded as largely informed by atheism even if they were Christians.

    +1
  6. Flint,

    “You write of “biblical” understandings when you actually intend Christian biblical understandings. You write about “creation” when you actually intend the Christian myth of creation.”

    Well, to be fair (if you would wish to be), I used the term “biblical” once, paraphrasing Schultz.

    “Schultz admitted openly that the early history of eVopsych was driven by the desire to seek an alternative explanation to the biblical account of Divine Creation”

    “Scriptural accounts” from the Abrahamic monotheistic religions would have served the same point (Divine Creation is what eVopsych is pointedly against, in motivation and focus), though I also doubt (having looked at his other works) that Schultz had Islam or Baha’i in mind when he wrote that. It doesn’t change the above message at all, nor was it a “screed”. LOL.

    eVopsych was “invented” by “western scientists”, after all, not in India, though your conscientious worldview defense of speculated eVopsychs there is duly noted. = )

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  7. “The claims of evolutionary psychology in the field of biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and philosophy are for the most part not merely mistaken, but culturally pernicious.” – Steven and Hilary Rose (Eds., Alas Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology, 2001)

    From the same book:

    “Evolutionary psychologists are missionaries, advocating a set of principles that define the meaning of life and seeking to convert others to their beliefs. They are convinced they have insights into the human condition that must be accepted as truth. And their insights often come through revelations. Describing his conversion experience, Wilson notes that his biggest ideas happened ‘within minutes … Those moments don’t happen very often in a career, but they’re climactic and exhilarating.’ He believes he is privy to ‘new revelations of great moral importance’, that from science ‘new intimations of immortality can be drawn and a new mythos evolved’. Convinced that evolutionary explanations should prevail over all other beliefs, he seeks conversions.” – Dorothy Nelkin https://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/sep/07/highereducation.books

    Also, see this view from a Baha’i (found in connection with the Nelkin piece):
    https://phulme.wordpress.com/tag/eberhard-von-kitzing/

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  8. It’s arrogant and retrograde to imagina that one’s religion should be the foundation for a scientific discipline. Myths are myths. They might reveal the character of the peoples who came out with the myths, they might help checking the changes in our perspectives about who we are, where our culture comes from. But, no matter how seriously someone takes their myths, they’re still myths and it’s irrational to expect them to appear as foundations of a scientific discipline, let alone one regarding the origins of our abilities. That panselectionism can be a curse, and is a hindrance to progress in our understanding, doesn’t justify the claim that someone’s loved myths have to be taken seriously.

    ETA: “We took the myth of Adam and Eve as foundation for the scientific discipline about the origin of our vices. We call this field AdamNEvePsych. A scientific journal to appear soon: The journal of Adam and Eve sins.”

    ETA2: “Instead of peer review we just pray that we’re right.”

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  9. Allan Miller: Let’s say A is under sexual selection while B is selected by virtue of an effect on running speed. Where’s the conflict in having two different selection mechanisms in operation at the same time, targeting different genes?

    The conflict is in A being self referential. You and I can select the ancestral dog into wiener and poodle. The dog cannot select itself into these two different branches. Furthermore, the dog family would rather survive than commit suicide by self-selecting into anything crazy.

    Some moron thinks (and this right here might be his biggest problem) humans select each other. And he’s right. And that’s an excellent proof there’s no such thing as “evolution”. Because somewhere, somehow, the very specific peacock’s tail and lion’s mane don’t make any particular sense on the account of “evolution”.

    When you rely on “subtleties”, you’re already in deep doodoo. Enjoy.

    “Sexual selection” absolutely and necessarily implies worst fit because, were sexual preference removed, there would not be any peacock’s tail and lion’s mane. It’s as simple as that.

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  10. Gregory:
    Flint,

    Well, to be fair (if you would wish to be), I used the term “biblical” once, paraphrasing Schultz.

    “Scriptural accounts” from the Abrahamic monotheistic religions would have served the same point (Divine Creation is what eVopsych is pointedly against, in motivation and focus), though I also doubt (having looked at his other works) that Schultz had Islam or Baha’i in mind when he wrote that. It doesn’t change the above message at all, nor was it a “screed”. LOL.

    eVopsych was “invented” by “western scientists”, after all, not in India, though your conscientious worldview defense of speculated eVopsychs there is duly noted.=)

    I thought my point was hard to miss, my mistake. You INSIST on viewing everything through the filter of Christian myth and beliefs. You see everything in terms of whether it supports or denies your personal faith. You make it clear that, for you, Christianity can NEVER be irrelevant, no matter what the topic or the scope of the discussion. And you seem to have gone to some lengths to find authors and critics who share this particular set of blinders.

    Now, maybe some people working in the field of evolutionary psychology are also devout Christians, as constrained as you are to superimpose their religion onto all they see and do. You just don’t seem willing to respect anyone who regards any field of study as inherently secular, and who regards evidence lacking a trace of religion as being an “atheistic” rather than scientific viewpoint. You give the impression that to you, there is no such thing as purely secular evidence of anything — your challenge is to decide if the evidence (and especially those who collect and analyze it) are for or against your religion.

    This gets old, but I suppose we all recognize that this forum exists at all because scientific evidence of biological history, no matter how all-embracing or devastatingly convincing, is dismissed in favor of the creation myths of one particular faith. Those myths are relevant ONLY to the degree they inhibit proper teaching or understanding of reality. But that’s unfortunately a large degree.

    (Somehow I’m reminded of the situation facing Shostakovich, because Stalin had to listen to each of his works to decide if they were or weren’t sufficiently communist. One wonders what metric Stalin used, but for Shostakovich, it was capricious and arbitrary. Stalin saw everything, even music, in terms of communist ideology.)

    +1
  11. Nonlin.org:
    “Sexual selection” absolutely and necessarily implies worst fit because, were sexual preference removed, there would not be any peacock’s tail and lion’s mane. It’s as simple as that.

    And pay no attention to all the species where males compete, so the females can select the biggest, fastest, strongest, smartest, healthiest, etc. Surely it does no good for the next generation to have such features, right? That could be evolution, so it must be wrong.

    +1
  12. Nonlin.org: The conflict is in A being self referential.

    You make-a no sense. A is simply a trait; B another.

    “Sexual selection” absolutely and necessarily implies worst fit because, were sexual preference removed, there would not be any peacock’s tail and lion’s mane. It’s as simple as that.

    So remove the selective pressure and the thing it maintains disappears? Well, yeah. Why’s that a problem? Take away the predators and the camouflage disappears; wings become unnecessary for flight.

    You must be all tuckered out after defeating evolution. I’ll let everyone know; you get some rest.

    +1
  13. Well, the anti-Christian bias at TSZ is rearing it’s head again, without even being provoked. Flint’s projection and putting words into my mouth (which he cannot find quotes from me to back up, though he points – you, you, you) isn’t new here. But it is rather boring. Probably it’s thus time to soon depart this TAMSZ again.

    As for me supposedly advocating “the creation myths of one particular faith”, what I actually wrote was, “Had Darwin remained a Christian…” (nothing controversial there), and that Dobzhansky was a Ukrainian Orthodox Christian (flat fact – see Adams’ biography). Otherwise, I’ve identified that all Abrahamic monotheists hold pretty much the same view of eVopsych, that it is biased against Abrahamic monotheism, which is a broader category than simply “one particular faith”. I also previously cited Black Elk and a Crow proverb, as examples of Indigenous perception that is inconsistent with eVopsych’s atheistic / agnostic worldview. In the most recent post, I linked to a Baha’i critique of eVopsych.

    On top of that, Dorothy Nelkin was a fellow of the “Committee for Skeptical Inquiry”, yet critiques it, saying “Evolutionary psychologists are missionaries, advocating a set of principles that define the meaning of life and seeking to convert others to their beliefs.” Maybe that’s what provoked Flint, a fellow “skeptic”? Stephen Rose is an atheist Jew, according to his wiki profile. And I don’t know the worldview of Hilary Rose, his wife, but she is certainly not someone for whom “you seem to have gone to some lengths to find authors and critics who share this particular set of blinders.” How could an honest person possibly draw that conclusion?!

    I guess for some atheists & agnostics, of the anti-religious variety, mustering such diverse viewpoints, even atheists included, against eVopsych, as yet one example of ideological evolutionism, just still isn’t inclusive enough. Flint thus appears to want to have his cake and eat it too.

    “there is no such thing as purely secular evidence of anything”

    As it is, I do agree with this. “Secular evidence” makes no sense. There’s just evidence. People interpret evidence in various ways, and worldviews, depending on the field, can and do make a difference to their interpretations. Especially in SSH, like eVopsych pretends (sometimes) to be, interpretation that includes a person’s worldview is very important. KN’s naturalism & agnosticism, for example, does indeed influence “what he can see” about eVopsych. Thus, he has so far avoided the fairly obvious linkages (simply because he’s not looking for them) between atheism/agnosticism & eVopsych, given that 99.999% of eVopsychs are atheists or agnostics.

    Flint speculates, “maybe some people working in the field of evolutionary psychology are also devout Christians”, but provides no evidence. Ok, so where are these “maybe” people? Anyone here could prove me wrong simply by identifying a practising religious eVopsych, e.g. of *ANY* of the Abrahamic monotheist religions. But no one has done so yet. Why not? Because they don’t seem to exist. And that’s the main point, which has now been made at length, without being disproved by a single “skeptic” here.

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  14. Gregory:
    Well, the anti-Christian bias at TSZ is rearing it’s head again, without even being provoked.

    And here we have it, once again, that being NON-Christian is the same as being ANTI-Christian. You are seeing what isn’t there. You might reflect on this, but as AA preaches, the first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one. Perhaps you could pray for insight?

    “Secular evidence” makes no sense. There’s just evidence. People interpret evidence in various ways, and worldviews, depending on the field, can and do make a difference to their interpretations.

    You carefully fail to make a distinction between evidence and interpretation. You seem to think these are the same thing. I think you may have opportunities at the current White House, where this conviction is practiced.

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  15. Nonlin.org to nobody in particular:
    “Sexual selection” absolutely and necessarily implies worst fit because, were sexual preference removed, there would not be any peacock’s tail and lion’s mane. It’s as simple as that.

    We see, yet again, Nonlin’s abject failure to understand and properly use the simplest concepts. The word “worst” means that nothing can be worse. So, if a mane or a peacock tail are the worst features those animals could possibly have, life would be truly easy for them if, instead, they were missing their feet or their mouths.

    It’s also revealing that Nonlin’s concept of “worst fit” is anything that would disappear without selection. But wait right there. Nonlin also contradicts herself big time, not that we should be surprised. She claimed before that there’s no basis for sexual selection, and that actually there’s absolutely no selection whatsoever, never and ever. Now she claims, with the very same authoritative tone, that it’s because of sexual selection that lions have manes and peacocks have those tails.

    Interesting isn’t it? If I had some compassion left for Nonlin I’d try and explain her these things, but she’d be unable to understand them anyway, so I won’t.

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  16. Entropy,

    What’s amusing in the incomplete thought process is when we consider the alternative. Peacocks have elaborate tails because the Designer knows what the girls like …

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  17. Entropy: It’s also revealing that Nonlin’s concept of “worst fit” is anything that would disappear without selection. But wait right there. Nonlin also contradicts herself big time, not that we should be surprised. She claimed before that there’s no basis for sexual selection, and that actually there’s absolutely no selection whatsoever, never and ever. Now she claims, with the very same authoritative tone, that it’s because of sexual selection that lions have manes and peacocks have those tails.

    It’s true, Nonlin can’t type two consecutive sentences without contradicting himself. He will refuse to examine your criticism though or perform any introspection. Nonlin refuses to consider any concept that reeks vaguely of evolution because he has decided beforehand these are all atheist ideas.

    I guess he feels a shared evolutionary history with animals would shrink humanity to being just another animal, and not unique and exceptional on earth. Perhaps he also thinks that a naturalistic explanation of human origins excludes any notion of humanity’s relationship with God.

    +1
  18. Gregory:
    Well, the anti-Christian bias at TSZ is rearing it’s head again, without even being provoked.

    Sure, because statements like “science fields have atheistic foundations instead of religious ones” is not a provocation (ETA: for laughter).

    Gregory:
    Flint’s projection and putting words into my mouth (which he cannot find quotes from me to back up, though he points – you, you, you) isn’t new here.

    All this time, seeing Greg putting words into other’s mouths with such gusto, I thought he wouldn’t mind if someone did that to him. Seems like he rather points at the tiny bit of sawdust in his neighbour’s eye.

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  19. Corneel,

    Your hypothesis would explain non-lin’s lack of logic and the refusal even to listen to biological explanations.

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  20. Entropy,

    @ Gregory,

    Seems a fair criticism to me Gregory. There’s a fine line between “I’m not sure what you mean here. Did you mean “*attempts to paraphrase*”?” on the one hand and attributing views to someone merely as a prejudiced perception on the other.

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  21. The comments are getting nasty or empty quick. Looks like the end of the thread is near. Having not put words in anyone’s mouth, I’ll just address content in brief.

    “science fields have atheistic foundations instead of religious ones”

    I thought there was wide agreement with KN … & myself … that eVopsych is “pseudo-science” not “science”? Do tell then, please, which specific parts of eVopsych you (Alan, Entropy, Flint, who are now apparently resisting KN’s & my ‘pseudo-science’ claim) believe are the “strictly scientific” parts. I’ve already indicated, in my own words and in the words of (diverse) others, the worldview presuppositions that were required even to invent “eVopsych” as a pseudo-science sub-field in psychology. The remainder of the burden to defend the scientificity of eVopsych is on you, or else I’m done here.

    0
  22. Gregory,
    My scepticism is based on your suggestion there is an atheistic element to evolutionary psychology. I haven’t seen support for that.

    0
  23. Alan Fox,
    Oh, so you believe that eVopsych is NOT looking for an entirely “natural” explanation of the origin of humanity, including body, mind and ______, without any attention or appeal to Divine activity? You’re now suggesting “naturalism” is actually NOT required to study eVopsych? Just go and read eVopsych works then come back and report on what you’ve found, preferably quoting those works. Atheism / agnosticism is not just an “element” of eVopsych, but rather its guiding worldview motivation. This isn’t why KN calls eVopsych “pseudo-science”, but it does also justify adding the qualification “pseudo-” that apparently, Alan, you now refuse to accept. eVopsych is “worldview-dependent” upon atheism / agnosticism.

    The same of course is true of IDism; it is worldview-dependent upon (a kind of generic) “theism”. I’m not arguing against that. Why are you re: eVopsych?

    0
  24. Gregory:
    The comments are getting nasty or empty quick. Looks like the end of the thread is near. Having not put words in anyone’s mouth, I’ll just address content in brief.

    Easier to see the tiny dust in somebody else’s eye, right Gregory?

    You assumed that I was for a journal in memetics out of the mere observation that the idea of memes is correct and works all right: ideas can spread across minds just for being catchy, rather than useful. You never answered the question: do you disagree with that? Instead you insisted that I went all the way to funding a journal of memetics, to explaining the whole of our cultural evolution via memes and to have biologists making the social sciences for you. No amount of disclaimers stopped you from putting words into my mouth in that and other regards. Same for other issues where you avoided the direct confrontation with my statements and explanations, and instead alleged that I ignored your wisdom, which seems to be the wisdom of a social scientists, no less, all the while putting quite the lot of words in my mouth.

    Gregory:
    I thought there was wide agreement with KN … & myself … that eVopsych is “pseudo-science” not “science”?Do tell then, please, which specific parts of eVopsych you (Alan, Entropy, Flint, who are now apparently resisting KN’s & my ‘pseudo-science’ claim) believe are the “strictly scientific” parts.

    The problem being that you put everything together, from the valid scientific points: the origin of our abilities, mixed up, as if they were no different, with the pseudoscientific points: the mere imagining that our very cultural environment doesn’t count, but that each and every aspect of our psyche has an evolutionary explanation as an advantage for some ancestral human population: aka the panadaptacionism problem.

    Gregory:
    I’ve already indicated, in my own words and in the words of (diverse) others, the worldview presuppositions that were required even to invent “eVopsych” as a pseudo-science sub-field in psychology.

    And we have been trying to explain what’s right and wrong about your view. You seem to mistake positions taken by [some] atheists for the scientific views on the origin of our abilities. You paint every psychologists with the very same brush, regardless of their actual points. You think that thinking that our abilities are the result of evolution, just for it being evolution, means that the people participating in the field have to be atheists with an anti-religious agenda. That I find quite ridiculous, and I have to say so.

    Gregory:
    The remainder of the burden to defend the scientificity of eVopsych is on you, or else I’m done here.

    I don’t have to defend anything. There’s both, a scientific side about the origins of our intellectual abilities and a panselectionist mistake. If you prefer to paint everything with the same brush, well, that’s entirely your problem. I have to say, though, that it does not appear to come from a scientific understanding, social or otherwise, but from failure to keep your own “idelogisms” in check.

    The beam in thy own eye Gregory. The beam in thy own eye.

    +1
  25. Gregory: Alan, you now refuse to accept. eVopsych is “worldview-dependent” upon atheism / agnosticism.

    I previously made a distinction between atheism (the view that gods etc. don’t exist) and agnosticism (the view that existence of gods etc. cannot be demonstrated nor disproven). I was also, perhaps unfairly, using “agnostic” in the sense of not prejudging. I strongly doubt that atheism is a driving force in evolutionary psychology. I think that an agnostic approach is to be encouraged.

    0
  26. Gregory,

    I’ve already indicated, in my own words and in the words of (diverse) others, the worldview presuppositions that were required even to invent “eVopsych” as a pseudo-science sub-field in psychology.

    Do you think these presuppositions apply only to EP, or to any statement about human evolution by natural selection?

    0
  27. Alan Fox: I previously made a distinction between atheism (the view that gods etc. don’t exist) and agnosticism (the view that existence of gods etc. cannot be demonstrated nor disproven). I was also, perhaps unfairly, using “agnostic” in the sense of not prejudging. I strongly doubt that atheism is a driving force in evolutionary psychology. I think that an agnostic approach is to be encouraged.

    Very good, but in the process I think you have fallen into the “Gregory-trap” of casting everything into religious terms. This is HIS playing field, and you can’t walk onto it and succeed. You have defined “atheist” in terms of his god, and “agnostic” ALSO in terms of his god. But his god is not relevant. Most scientists, most of the time, are focusing on the evidence without any reference to anything religious ever crossing their minds.

    The basic question of how evolutionary circumstances have shaped and directed human intellectual abilities is an interesting question. I find some speculations more plausible than others, of course, but religion plays a role in these speculations ONLY in the minds of those for whom everything is religious, especially where it isn’t. Let’s let Gregory bark up that tree forever, while we move on to consider the basic question.

    +1
  28. Gregory:
    Oh, so you believe that eVopsych is NOT looking for an entirely “natural” explanation of the origin of humanity, including body, mind and ______, without any attention or appeal to Divine activity?

    Why should divine activity even enter into a field that’s at least in foundation and intent a scientific one? That doesn’t require the involved people to be atheists. All it requires if for them to be scientists. I know plenty of religious scientists. None of them is looking for divine involvement in their fields of research. Why would they? They’re performing science, not running a church.

    Gregory:
    You’re now suggesting “naturalism” is actually NOT required to study eVopsych?

    Only as a scientific position Gregory. This should be easy to understand. Leaving alone the clear fact that religious beliefs are mere fables, even those who believe those myths understand that science advances by assuming naturalism at least methodologically. They’re free to interpret everything in terms of a magical being in the sky in their personal affairs and in church.

    Gregory:
    Just go and read eVopsych works then come back and report on what you’ve found, preferably quoting those works. Atheism / agnosticism is not just an “element” of eVopsych, but rather its guiding worldview motivation.

    Your posture is ridiculous. Guided by your poor understanding of the scientific endeavour, we’d have to say that the whole of science has an atheistic / agnosticism guiding worldview motivation, when it’s the philosophy of science that demands agnosticism (not atheism). We try and infer how gravitation works, for example, regardless of whether it originated by divine intervention or not. Myths, believed by the scientists or not, do no go well intermingled with honest efforts at learning about the way the world works. Scientists of a religious bent would have to push the boundaries of the naturalistic explanations if they had any hope of finding their god sitting there somewhere, while most find their gods right there in the very naturalistic explanations. That’s religion Gregory. Something very personal, but indefinable in reach and depth.

    Sure I understand your religion to be just myths, but I can respect the religious scientists who understands that science has to remain agnostic if we hope to continue growing in our understanding. Anything else would be a lack of respect for everyone involved.

    0
  29. “do you disagree with that?”

    See my published works. Human extension vs. Memetics – rounds 1 & 2. ‘Memes’ differ from the ideology of “memetics”, which Dawkins himself, who coined both terms, says was “high-jacked” from him. Memetics is in the dust bin of history, so yeah, I reject it too, along with every balanced person I’ve read on the topic. Midgley crushed Dawkins on memetics, as did many others. The collapse of the Journal of Memetics, in the words of the very people who at first supported it, shows the emptiness of Dawkins’ ideology.

    So-called ‘memes’ (viral videos, images, quotes), separate from having anything to do with “memetics”, I too enjoy! = P

    “You paint every psychologists with the very same brush, regardless of their actual points.”

    eVopsychs, yes, after doing due diligent research, since they are all of a similar “cloth”, which no one here has provided a jot of evidence otherwise. I offered my sociological analysis, which people are of course free to reject. There are a lot of good psychologists, indeed, and I look to them for help in understanding body, mind, soul. With them, it’s a very different brush, indeed!

    “Do you think these presuppositions apply only to EP, or to any statement about human evolution by natural selection?”

    As you probably know, I reject the term “cultural evolution” as a misnomer, and focus instead on “cultural development”, which is the predominant choice in social sciences and humanities. I’m well in the mainstream on this, while the outliers are the eVopsychs & others promoting “evolutionary science” in SSH. D.S. Wilson and his “Evolution Institute” are on the cross-roads of the conflation, and I haven’t read much support for Wilson’s brand of hyper-evolutionism here. Natural selection is surely a limited metaphor to describe cultural change and development. Since TSZ is filled with naturalists, that may be difficult for you and others here to agree with, Allan, but that doesn’t make “natural selection” a more suitable metaphor to describe change-over-time in culture than “human selection”, or as I prefer, “human extension.”

    Unless KN returns, as he’s the only other SSH voice engaged, I’m done here. At least he knows that “naturalism” is not a “scientific position,” but rather an ideology.

    “most find their gods right there in the very naturalistic explanations”

    Yup. Nuf said. Ciao.

    0
  30. Gregory:
    See my published works. Human extension vs. Memetics – rounds 1 & 2. ‘Memes’ differ from the ideology of “memetics”, which Dawkins himself, who coined both terms, says was “high-jacked” from him. Memetics is in the dust bin of history, so yeah, I reject it too, along with every balanced person I’ve read on the topic. Midgley crushed Dawkins on memetics, as did many others. The collapse of the Journal of Memetics, in the words of the very people who at first supported it, shows the emptiness of Dawkins’ ideology.

    You went again through your usual detours and sent me, again, all the way to supporting a fucking journal of memetics, which, again, I don’t.

    So, to be direct and clear: do you reject the very idea that ideas can spread for being catchy, rather than useful. Don you think that just doesn’t happen? No detours please.

    0
  31. Gregory: Unless KN returns, as he’s the only other SSH voice engaged, I’m done here. At least he knows that “naturalism” is not a “scientific position,” but rather an ideology.

    If you cannot understand that the same word can have different meanings, and thus apply to both, a scientific position and an ideology, no wonder my explanations fly way above your head.***

    I suspect that KN understands that the same word can be applied for different things. But I rather not talk for others.

    ***ETA: now I see why you have so much trouble. For you there’s only one “Malthusianism”, no difference between the math of population/resources growth and eugenics. For you there’s only one “evoPsych”, no difference between investigating the origins of our biological abilities and the panselectionism plaguing so much of the field. You truly don’t understand that words can have different meanings, that fields can have good and bad sides. To you it’s impossible for science to be practiced by religious people without them mentioning their beliefs at every turn. No middle ground, no diverging meanings, no context. Everything is exactly what you say it is, and nothing else.

    0
  32. Entropy,
    Yes, ideas “extend” from person to person. That’s obvious. They just don’t “evolve”.

    Done here today, f’real.

    0
  33. Gregory:
    Yes, ideas “extend” from person to person. That’s obvious.

    Was that so hard? We could have saved a lot of back and forth if only you learned to read what people write instead of putting words into their minds and mouths.

    0
  34. Gregory,

    Natural selection is surely a limited metaphor to describe cultural change and development. 

    I wasn’t using it metaphorically, nor was I talking about culture. The discussion partly founders on such terminological confusion. I mean the process by which heritable variation increases in the population due to its effect on its bearers. Bog-standard biological evolution.

    When talking to biologists, you shouldn’t be too surprised if their understanding of common terms relates to their use in biology, and not disciplines you may care more about.

    +1
  35. Flint: And pay no attention to all the species where males compete, so the females can select the biggest, fastest, strongest, smartest, healthiest, etc.

    Competition is not sexual selection. Only the lady’s preference is. And mating with the winner is most often mandatory.

    Allan Miller: So remove the selective pressure and the thing it maintains disappears? Well, yeah. Why’s that a problem?

    You obviously don’t get “self referential”. Not a problem. Let’s try again: why does the peacock have the tail it does? Because it “chooses” to do so as a species. Still don’t see it? Then will peacocks look like the lions if they change their collective mind?

    Oh no, moron thinks again (a recipe for disaster). “Absolutely no selection whatsoever, never and ever” – does that mean no farming never and ever? “Lions have manes and peacocks have those tails” not because sexual selection, but because…? Why do they? And, very amusing, the same moron that knows all about “best fit” but can’t articulate a thing now doubts worst fit. Haha.
    Corneel,

    Bwt Corneel, what’s your opinion about ad hominem? Don’t you find it pathetical? And what’s your opinion about those that launch ad hominem? Wouldn’t you say that generally they have been outsmarted and left in the dust? Just asking for a friend.

    0
  36. Poor Nonlin. No reading for comprehension demonstrated again:

    Nonlin.org:
    “Absolutely no selection whatsoever, never and ever” – does that mean no farming never and ever?

    Poor Nonlin so bad at reading for comprehension that she didn’t understand that I was quoting her. That’s what Nonlin claimed, that there’s no selection whatsoever never and ever. So, she should ask herself that question about farming. It is her who deals in such absurd absolutisms, only to contradict herself later on.

    Nonlin.org:
    “Lions have manes and peacocks have those tails” not because sexual selection, but because…? Why do they?

    Again, Nonlin should ask herself, since it’s her who claimed with an authoritative tone that there’s no selection absolutely never and ever, only to later claim, with the very same tone, that peacock tails and lion manes would disappear without sexual selection. So, according to Nonlin there’s absolutely no selection whatsoever, but there’s sexual selection.

    But who are we kidding. Nonlin doesn’t know her own words from the words of others, even when quoted back at her. We cannot hope her to understand these simple, straightforward, problems with her babbling.

    ETA:
    P.S. Since poor Nonlin might attempt to read this, maybe she’d like to know what Nonlin said:

    Nonlin.org:
    “Sexual selection” absolutely and necessarily implies worst fit because, were sexual preference removed, there would not be any peacock’s tail and lion’s mane. It’s as simple as that.

    But maybe Nonlin doesn’t understand the concept of quoting, or that the blockquote indicates something she wrote herself. Or that the blue in her monicker leads to her own statement.

    Anyway, There’s sexual selection according to Nonlin after all. But, also according to Nonlin, there isn’t, but there is, but there isn’t, but there is, but there isn’t, but there is …

    0
  37. Entropy: Nonlin doesn’t know her own words from the words of others, even when quoted back at her.

    That is pretty staggering!

    0
  38. Can we please have the discussion about selection — natural, sexual, whatever — in another thread? Is that so much to ask?

    +1
  39. Agree with KN. And likewise, this isn’t a thread about “biological evolution”. Biologists have no privilege or special status here & shouldn’t think people must adjust their language just for them. Try to start thinking like a psychologist, instead of biologist if that’s what you are, since the difference between “natural” and “social” here makes a HUGE impact.

    0
  40. Gregory: KN’s naturalism & agnosticism, for example, does indeed influence “what he can see” about eVopsych. Thus, he has so far avoided the fairly obvious linkages (simply because he’s not looking for them) between atheism/agnosticism & eVopsych, given that 99.999% of eVopsychs are atheists or agnostics.

    As it happens, I suspect you’re probably right that evolutionary psychologists are atheists or agnostics. I just don’t think that’s interesting.

    I don’t think that’s interesting mostly because so are most of their critics — as far as I know. Stephen Jay Gould was a secular Jew and agnostic. Gregory claims that Steven Rose is a secular Jew. Kim Sterelny, who also works on theories of human cognitive evolution, is very critical of evolutionary psychology in his book Thought in a Hostile World. I have no idea what the religious beliefs are of Subrena Smith or Brad Peters, nor do I care very much, because I don’t see how that is relevant to assessing their arguments.

    It’s possible that the critics of evolutionary theory are people of deep spiritual feeling. But we haven’t seen any evidence that they are. And while it’s probably true that evolutionary psychologists are atheists, we haven’t been told why that matters.

    My reasons for thinking that evolutionary psychology is a pseudo-science have to do with the argumentative strategies specific to evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology is a specific project that must be distinguished from many other attempts to explain the evolution of human cognition. Taking all evolutionary accounts of human cognition as “evolutionary psychology” can result in nothing but confusion.

    +1
  41. Nonlin.org,

    Competition is not sexual selection. Only the lady’s preference is.

    That ‘preference’ generates a competition.

    You obviously don’t get “self referential”.

    Correct. A tail is a tail. It’s not a self-referential tail.

    Not a problem. Let’s try again: why does the peacock have the tail it does? Because it “chooses” to do so as a species. Still don’t see it? Then will peacocks look like the lions if they change their collective mind?

    The genes involved in mate preference are not the same genes as those involved in generating elaborate tails. Cobbling the entirety together as ‘the genes’, and hence ‘self-referential’: the genes choose the genes, is a feeble effort.

    +1
  42. Nonlin.org,

    Oh no, moron thinks again (a recipe for disaster).

    […]

    Bwt Corneel, what’s your opinion about ad hominem? Don’t you find it pathetical? 

    Snort!

    +2
  43. Kantian Naturalist:
    Can we please have the discussion about selection — natural, sexual, whatever — in another thread? Is that so much to ask?

    EP as a realm of explanation is entirely about selection. The biological kind. My comments to Gregory on the matter (if not to nonlin) are entirely on-topic. If one party intends the biological process and the other sees a statement about culture, that needs establishing, otherwise it’s a lengthy exercise in talking-past.

    But hey, philosophise away, I’ll go and look at some toadstools.

    +3
  44. Gregory: Try to start thinking like a psychologist

    Has that been productive? My suspicion is that humans are incapable of understanding themselves but I’m open to the possibility of being wrong.

    0
  45. Gregory:
    Agree with KN. And likewise, this isn’t a thread about “biological evolution”. Biologists have no privilege or special status here & shouldn’t think people must adjust their language just for them. Try to start thinking like a psychologist, instead of biologist if that’s what you are, since the difference between “natural” and “social” here makes a HUGE impact.

    As to KN: if you are talking about EP, you are talking about an attempted biological explanation, whatever its correctness, motivation, poor methodology or sociological implications. No-one is asking you to amend your language, simply to appreciate that if one talks of ‘selection’, that is how a biologist will understand the term. Perfectly reasonably, since EP and ‘panadaptationism’ are biologically-informed: behavioural traits as adaptations. You want us biologists to amend our understanding: to talk of selection as a cultural metaphor.

    +2
  46. Nonlin.org: Bwt Corneel, what’s your opinion about ad hominem? Don’t you find it pathetical? And what’s your opinion about those that launch ad hominem? Wouldn’t you say that generally they have been outsmarted and left in the dust? Just asking for a friend.

    I don’t think I can add anything to Allan’s retort. People in glass houses and all that.

    FWIW, I made no ad hominem remark. Your “moron thinks again” line signals that you indeed dismissed Entropy’s criticism without giving it a moment’s thought.

    +1
  47. Allan Miller: Perfectly reasonably, since EP and ‘panadaptationism’ are biologically-informed: behavioural traits as adaptations. You want us biologists to amend our understanding: to talk of selection as a cultural metaphor.

    Yep, Evolutionary Psychology imported the ideas from Bill Hamilton, George Williams and Robert Trivers and applied them to human behaviour. Hence within an EP context, selection must be understood in biological terms.

    +2

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