Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Debate on Evolutionary Psychology

There is a debate on metafilter about evolutionary psychology: “the human brain consists of a large collection of functionally specialized computational devices that evolved to solve the adaptive problems regularly encountered by our hunter-gatherer ancestors”

I am a strong disbeliever in evolutionary psychology. This does not mean I doubt that the human brain is the product of evolution, but I think the EP cognitive model of the brain - a collection of specialised computational modules - is without any foundation. A commentator on metafilter challenged people to offer an alternative hypothesis. This was my response:

'Evolutionary psychology' is a narrow subtype of the overall general theory that evolution has in some way affected human behaviour. It posits (as people have said above) that behaviour is the result of specialised cognitive modules which turn given inputs (stimuli) into highly specific outputs (behaviours) in an inflexible way.

An obvious alternative view is that, as other animals do, humans respond to stimuli with a mixture of genetically conditioned and improvised behaviours. Humans (it seems to me) find it easier to improvise behaviour than most, perhaps all, other animals. Thus the alternative hypothesis is that the human mind produces composite and flexible behaviours. This is what we call intelligence.

The bad side (in this hypothesis) of human intelligence is we also probably feel more anticipatory anxiety than other animals, and this means we also generate a lot of compensatory anxiety-limiting behaviours, which you might even call neurotic. To the extent that I think neurotic behaviours - not directly functional in themselves - are normal for human beings.

Thus the alternative hypothesis argues that humans have evolved to be more flexible, but probably less rational, in their responses to their environment (than does EP). This hypothesis seems to match the facts more closely.
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