What Is Evolutionary Psychology?

We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities... still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

- Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871), conclusion

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Evolutionary Psychology. Richard Dawkins redefined human nature in 1976, when he wrote in The Selfish Gene: “They swarm in huge colonies, safe inside giant lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and me; they created us body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rational of our existence…they go by the name of genes and we are their survival machines”. Potent ideas like this have given birth to a new discipline, ‘Evolutionary Psychology’: It claims that all of human behaviour can be understood in terms of a single compulsion - we must sexually reproduce so that our genes will live on. How has this idea developed, what can it tell us of how we behave, and can it be trusted?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Evolutionary Psychology

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

As a biologist and Darwinian I take it for granted that human psychology has been shaped by our evolutionary past. But EP's claims go far beyond this, arguing that "human nature" was fixed in the stone age and that there has not been evolutionary time subsequently to modulate these universals, such as women's having more orgasms when mating with men wearing rolex watches or men preference for sex with women who have optimal hip-waist ratios. (It is enough to visit the great picture galleries of Europe and observe what passed as soft pornography for our 17th century forebears to refute the latter claim)...

Continue reading Steven Rose's article: Evolutionary psychology goes too far

Further Reading

Evolutionary psychology is one of many biologically informed approaches to the study of human behavior. Along with cognitive psychologists, evolutionary psychologists propose that much, if not all, of our behavior can be explained by appeal to internal psychological mechanisms. What distinguishes evolutionary psychologists from many cognitive psychologists is the proposal that the relevant internal mechanisms are adaptations—products of natural selection—that helped our ancestors get around the world, survive and reproduce...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Evolutionary Psychology by Stephen M. Downes


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