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Re: [evol-psych] Re: UG, modularity and evolution

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  • Ian Pitchford
    Andrew Brown wrote Fair enough: and your list of interesting new work is inspiring. I m glad I provoked it. But doing psychology (and everything else) in the
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 1, 2001
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      Andrew Brown wrote

      Fair enough: and your list of interesting new work is inspiring.
      I'm glad I provoked it. But "doing psychology (and everything else) in
      the light of evolution" is not what is often meant by "Evolutionary
      Psychology", which tends to mean "the framework endorsed by Cosmides
      and Tooby". I think that most of the contributors to APD would sign
      up for the first, even as they rejected the second. So how do we
      distinguish between them?
      ______

      REPLY: Tooby and Cosmides describe EP as 'an approach to psychology, in which
      knowledge and principles from evolutionary biology are put to use in research
      on the structure of the human mind'. If we accept this definition then we can
      assess the supplementary hypotheses such as modularity, sexual dimorphism and
      mismatch on merit, which is what I think you're suggesting. I wouldn't
      distinguish between C&T and the contributors to APD. I'd assess their arguments
      against the available evidence from *all* of the relevant fields. Everyone in
      neuroscience, for example, works on the assumption that there are many
      different systems in the human brain, and that many of these systems have
      homologies in other species. LeDoux's work on the fear system is a good example
      of research that wouldn't make any sense at all without these assumptions. Most
      of the work on the components of memory (e.g. working memory, emotional memory,
      declarative memories, procedural memory, long-term memory etc) is also
      illustrative. If researchers were working with Gould's model of an accidentally
      enlarged plastic brain capable of multimodal functioning according to whatever
      cultural inscriptions seize hold of it my guess would be that progress would be
      limited. I wont discuss the other contributors to APD as we've been doing that
      for some time.

      _________

      you continue:

      and that welcoming this larger would be the test of constructive
      engagement. OK. Let's see if we can get to the elements of such a
      picture in language that hasn't been trampled over: how about

      1) emotions and reason are different aspects of an evolved
      decision-making apparatus
      2) There is not one apparatus, but many, corresponding to different
      problem domains
      3) Men and women face different problems (largely, but not
      exclusively, each other) and therefore have differently evolved
      decision-making apparati
      4) Both sexes are extremely good at keeping score and making decisions
      on the basis of status, and the likelihood of co-operation.
      5) Er
      6) Steve Gould is a (mmmmmmph) I said constructive engagement

      But what would you add to the first four points of the list?

      ______

      In terms of general principles, all of which have good empirical support, I
      would add (and I should point out that this is my personal perspective and not
      that of EP as generally recognised) the following

      7). Modular systems participate in hierarchies and heterarchies in which there
      is no master control module, Cartesian Theatre, or central repository of
      general plasticity.
      8). Neurotransmitters have different effects on different systems according to
      their place in the hierarchy of functions.
      9). Systems retain some plasticity allowing them to adapt to changing
      ecological, social and developmental circumstances.
      10). Because of (9) evolutionary theory, life history theory, and developmental
      psychology/lifespan psychology can provide one coherent perspective.
      11). Plasticity in systems can be induced.
      12). Newer systems are constructed out of and on top of phylogenetically
      ancient systems and therefore homologies can inform theories of psychological
      functioning at any level including that of 'higher' cognition.
      13). Because of (9) (10) (11) and (12) interindividual commonalities,
      interindividual differences and intraindividual plasticity all fall within the
      domain of EP and so cross-cultural studies and studies of pathology, including
      psychopathology, are always relevant to the construction of hypotheses.
      14). (9) (10) (11) (12) and (13) only make sense within the combined
      perspective of genic selectionism and developmental systems theory.
      15). Most information processed by systems is not accessible to consciousness.
      16). Connections between systems may be highly asymmetric.
      17). Changes (or differences) in function should be taken to imply changes in
      form as this will induce us to consider the possibility that systems are
      polymorphic, sexually dimorphic, and subject to change across the lifespan.

      If you want to consider just one question to illustrate the difference between
      this perspective and that of Gould, Rose and most of the other contributors to
      APD then ask: How do they explain genomic imprinting? I don't know the answer
      to this question but my guess would be that they don't because (a) a genic
      selectionist perspective is essential and (b) the findings don't make any sense
      other than within the context of parental investment theory and
      parent-offspring conflict and (c) Gould et al. like to claim that (a) and (b)
      are (probably) ideological rather than scientific concepts.

      As for the sincerity of the critique offered by Gould et al. try these
      questions: Do you really believe that they believe the neutral theory of
      evolution, punctuated equilibrium, and mass extinctions to be a serious problem
      for evolutionary psychology? If not, then why are these ideas cited constantly?
      For another example showing that these specious arguments do work, even on
      bright and well-educated people see: 'Idiomatic Rants - Dr Pangloss' Paradise'
      http://www.scicom.hu.ic.ac.uk/students/rants/emma_ep.html

      Best wishes

      Ian

      <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>>
      Ian Pitchford <Ian.Pitchford@...>
      Editor, The Human Nature Daily Review
      http://human-nature.com/nibbs/
      Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies
      School of Health and Related Research
      University of Sheffield, S10 2TA, UK
      <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>>
    • Andrew Brown
      On Wednesday, August 01, 2001, at 9:14:52, Ian Pitchford wrote: [first a long and really informative response to my challenge, for which many thanks.] IP If
      Message 2 of 8 , Aug 2, 2001
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        On Wednesday, August 01, 2001, at 9:14:52, Ian Pitchford wrote:

        [first a long and really informative response to my challenge, for
        which many thanks.]


        IP> If you want to consider just one question to illustrate the difference between
        IP> this perspective and that of Gould, Rose and most of the other contributors to
        IP> APD then ask: How do they explain genomic imprinting? I don't know the answer
        IP> to this question but my guess would be that they don't because (a) a genic
        IP> selectionist perspective is essential and (b) the findings don't make any sense
        IP> other than within the context of parental investment theory and
        IP> parent-offspring conflict and (c) Gould et al. like to claim that (a) and (b)
        IP> are (probably) ideological rather than scientific concepts.

        This is a (sort-of) experiment well worth trying. I think the results
        would show that "Gould et al" do not form a homogenous group. On the
        other hand, I don't want to find myself defending APD: looking up the
        review I did of it for the _Guardian_, I find that "Large tracts read
        like sociology lectures originally written for a captive and slightly
        retarded audience. To read them is like eating gritty cold porridge
        laced with chilli sauce."

        On a more constroctive note: it seems to me that one of the
        difficulties with translating science into popular culture, which is
        where a lot f these ideas come unstuck, is that journalists (and
        outsiders to a field generally) want to use the verb 'cause'; when all
        we can properly say is 'make more likely'.



        --

        Andrew Brown
        Phone +44 (0)1799-516812
        Fax +44 (0)1799-500726
        What I do: http://www.darwinwars.com
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