Re: [evol-psych] Re: UG, modularity and evolution
- 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.
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
2) There is not one apparatus, but many, corresponding to different
3) Men and women face different problems (largely, but not
exclusively, each other) and therefore have differently evolved
4) Both sexes are extremely good at keeping score and making decisions
on the basis of status, and the likelihood of co-operation.
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
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'
<<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>>
Ian Pitchford <Ian.Pitchford@...>
Editor, The Human Nature Daily Review
Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies
School of Health and Related Research
University of Sheffield, S10 2TA, UK
<<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>>
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'.
Phone +44 (0)1799-516812
Fax +44 (0)1799-500726
What I do: http://www.darwinwars.com