All this is a very stirring defence of human freedom. But how is it possible? If culture is 'the direct product of evolution', whence the capacity to 'decouple' the two? How do we possess 'the power to turn against our creators'? Presumably Pinker believes that his ability to tell his genes to go 'jump in the lake' must itself be an evolved trait. But how could such a trait survive? By definition it reduces biological fitness to zero. So how did it ever get passed on from one generation to the next? If a chimp or a horse told its genes to go take a jump, it would not survive very long in evolutionary terms. So how is it possible for humans to act like this, if we are governed simply by the same laws that hold sway over the rest of the animal kingdom?
For Wilson, then, humans need a myth that allows them to transcend the present, and have sense of both their past and their future. Where Prince Charles wants to restore a sense of the sacred in our dealings with nature, Wilson desires to naturalise the idea of sacredness. The result is not so much evolutionary psychology as evolutionary theology: a new (or, perhaps, New Age) religion for mankind. This is ironic because Wilson, like most evolutionary biologists, is deeply hostile to religion. But in trying to replace God with Nature, Wilson has turned science into faith. Like ecomysticism, what we might call evomysticism has also become a means of setting limits to human accomplishment, of providing solace in anxious times, of discovering a non-human source to arbitrate on human actions.
If basic emotions, such as pain and anger, can be given new meanings by being mediated through language, how much more is this true of more complex emotions such as guilt and shame? This is not to deny that emotions are evolved traits, many of which we share with our evolutionary relatives, or that they are universal to all cultures. But it is to suggest that even basic human emotions cannot understood in a purely naturalistic fashion, shaped as they are by human social development. And, if this is so, how is it possible that complex relationships such as power or love, whose very meanings are specifically human, can be understood in purely evolutionary, through analogies drawn from non-human animals, who possess neither language nor self-awareness?
Language and self-awareness transforms human life by making us conscious of ourselves as agents. Because we are conscious of ourselves as agents, we are aware of our capacity to transform the world around us. Human history is different from evolutionary history because it is Lamarckian not Darwinian in form. The nineteenth century French biologist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck believed that changes that occur to an individual during its lifetime, in response to a 'felt need', can be inherited by its progeny. This, he claimed, was the basis of evolution. The long neck of a giraffe, for instance, evolved by the animal stretching its neck to browse on the foliage of trees, and its offspring being subsequently born with longer necks.
There's more than a whiff of this in evolutionary stories of human politics. How excessively convenient, as Salman might say, that on the African savannah of 100 000 years ago we should find the tools to remake the politics of today. And how even more convenient that these tools should match exactly one's own political inclinations. Over here we find evidence that humans are, by nature, freetraders, over there that they are naturally inclined to fairness, and round the corner we find that stitched into their souls are the necessary means to heal the great disruption. It's almost as if evolution designed human beings' political nature as a tabula rasa on which can be impressed any variety of political attitudes.
In this essay, inspired by Steven Pinker's fascinating book, How the Mind Works  and Evolutionary psychology, as championed by Tooby and Cosmides,
This was an early critique
of evolutionary psychology
and, in retrospect,
some of the criticism
(especially of modularity)
feels somewhat naive
Nevertheless, the main lines
of criticism - of the problem
of naturalism, of the methodological weaknesses
of evolutionary psychology,
of the failure to
understand human agency -
remain highly pertinent.
Evolutionary psychology offers, among other things, a theory of mistakesвЂ”an Essay Evolutionary Psychology alternative to the rationality assumption. In this essay Essay Evolutionary Psychology I sketch out the nature of that
An extended - and more nuanced - critique of
can be found in my book
(Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000/ Rutgers University Press, 2002).
The title of the essay, incidentally, (which is not mine) is unfortunate as this is a critique not of Darwinism but of certain aspects of evolutionary psychology.
Evolutionary psychology offers, among other things, a theory of mistakesвЂ”an alternative to the rationality assumption. In this essay I sketch out the nature of that
'Boys are made to squirt and girls are made to lay eggs. And if the truth be known, boys don't very much care what they squirt into.' Crude and inelegant it may be, but Gore Vidal's pithy quote neatly sums up the argument of evolutionary psychology.
Essay by William A. Spriggs July Essay Evolutionary Psychology 4th, 2009. Why We Essay Evolutionary Psychology Essay Evolutionary Psychology Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. By Dr. Helen Fisher Henry Holt and Company, 2004
The human mind is built from genes, the argument goes, the sole purpose of which is to reproduce themselves. The genes, which have been selected for through the process of evolution, programme the mind with a set of behaviours best designed to carry out their selfish aims. The reproductive strategies of men and women are different, so they have been programmed to exhibit different behaviours. The whole edifice of human society and culture is built on the need for genes to reproduce themselves, and on the different needs of men and women.