A " spandrel " is a term coined by Gould and Lewontin a for traits which confer no adaptive advantage to an organism, but are 'carried along' by an adaptive trait. Gould advocates the hypothesis that cognition in humans came about as a spandrel: "Natural selection made the human brain big, but most of our mental properties and potentials may be spandrels — that is, nonadaptive side consequences of building a device with such structural complexity". Edward Hagen argued evolutionary psychology's reliance on adaptive explanations is grounded in the fact that the existence and survival of life is highly improbable.
Hagen argues that most organisms do not survive to reproduce and that is only through adaptations that organisms can hope to do so; alternate explanations like genetic drift are only relevant if an organism can survive and reproduce in the first place and it is the fact that organisms do manage survive and reproduce, despite the odds against such a thing occurring, that evolutionary psychologists are interested in. Durrant et al agree that alternative explanations to adaptation have to be considered. The authors argue that an issue with adaptationist explanations is underdetermination.
A theory is underdetermined when the evidence used to support it could be equally used to support one or more other competing theories.
Criticism of evolutionary psychology
Underdetermination is an issue in science due to the problem of induction ; in the great majority of cases, the truth of the data does not deductively entail the truth of the hypothesis. Even if the theory can make predictions, these predictions do not necessarily confirm the hypothesis, as competing theory could also predict it; the authors argue that the prediction of novel facts does not necessarily mean acceptance of the theory, historically speaking, observing that while Einstein's theory is famously held as being accepted because it predicted light would bend around black holes which was unknown at the time , neither Einstein nor many of his contemporaries regarded it as a strong confirmation of his theory.
Durrant et al thus propose that the problem of underdetermination can be solved by judging competing theories on a range of criteria to determine which one best explains phenomena by having the best explanatory coherence; criteria suggested include explanatory breadth which theory explains the great range of facts , simplicity which theory requires the fewest special assumptions and analogy the theory is supported by analogy to theories scientists already find credible. Thus any criticism of adaptationist theories must demonstrate that an alternative theory offers greater explanatory coherence than the adaptationist one.
Some have argued that even if the theoretical assumptions of evolutionary psychology turned out to be true, it would nonetheless lead to methodological problems that would compromise its practice. That is, the inability to correctly choose, from a number of possible answers to the question: "what is the function of a given mechanism? The disjunction problem   occurs when a mechanism appears to respond to one thing F , but is also correlated with another G.
Whenever F is present, G is also present, and the mechanism seems to respond to both F and G. The difficulty thus involves deciding whether to characterize the mechanism's adaptive function as being related to F , G , or both. The grain problem   refers to the challenge in knowing what kind of environmental 'problem' an adaptive mental mechanism might have solved. Is the problem of mate choice a single problem or a mosaic of many distinct problems?
These problems might include: When should I be unfaithful to my usual partner? When should I desert my old partner? When should I help my sibs find a partner? When and how should I punish infidelity? Franks states that "if both adaptive problems and adaptive solutions are indeterminate, what chance is there for evolutionary psychology?
Franks also states that "The arguments in no sense count against a general evolutionary explanation of psychology. Evolutionary psychologists have proposed explanations, such that there may be higher fertility rates for the female relatives of homosexual men, thus progressing a potential homosexual gene,  or that they may be byproducts of adaptive behaviors that usually increase reproductive success. However, a review by Confer et al. Many critics have argued that evolutionary psychology and sociobiology justify existing social hierarchies and reactionary policies. It has also been suggested by critics that evolutionary psychologists' theories and interpretations of empirical data rely heavily on ideological assumptions about race and gender.
Philippe Rushton 's work on race and intelligence was influenced by preconceived notions about race and was "cloaked in the nomenclature, language and 'objectivity'" of evolutionary psychology, sociobiology and population genetics. Moreover, evolutionary psychology has been criticized for its ethical implications. Richardon and Wilson et al. Evolutionary psychologists caution against committing the naturalistic fallacy — the idea that "ought can be derived from is" and that "what is natural" is necessarily a moral good.
The naturalistic fallacy is the idea that what is found in nature is good. It was the basis for Social Darwinism, the belief that helping the poor and sick would get in the way of evolution, which depends on the survival of the fittest. Today, biologists denounce the Naturalistic Fallacy because they want to describe the natural world honestly, without people deriving morals about how we ought to behave -- as in: If birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, cannibalism, it must be OK.
The moralistic fallacy is that what is good is found in nature. It lies behind the bad science in nature-documentary voiceovers: lions are mercy-killers of the weak and sick, mice feel no pain when cats eat them, dung beetles recycle dung to benefit the ecosystem and so on. It also lies behind the romantic belief that humans cannot harbor desires to kill, rape, lie, or steal because that would be too depressing or reactionary. Instead, they argue that understanding the causes of rape may help create preventive measures.
Wilson et al. The authors have argued that a factual statement must be combined with an ethical statement to derive an ethical conclusion. Thus, "ought" cannot be described exclusively from "is". They have suggested that if one combines Thornhill and Palmer's theory that rape increases the fitness of a woman's offspring with the ethical premise that it is right to increase fitness of offspring, the resulting deductively valid conclusion is that rape has also positive effects and that its ethical status is ambiguous.
Yet, it is Thornhill and Palmer who are thinking fallaciously by using the naturalistic fallacy in this way. Part of the controversy has consisted in each side accusing the other of holding or supporting extreme political viewpoints: evolutionary psychology has often been accused of supporting right-wing politics, whereas critics have been accused of being motivated by Marxist view points. Linguist and activist Noam Chomsky has said that evolutionary psychologists often ignore evidence that might harm the political status quo:.
The founder of what is now called "sociobiology" or "evolutionary psychology"-the natural historian and anarchist Peter Kropotkin -concluded from his investigations of animals and human life and society that "mutual aid" was a primary factor in evolution, which tended naturally toward communist anarchism Of course, Kropotkin is not considered the founding figure of the field and is usually dismissed if mentioned at all, because his quasi-Darwinian speculations led to unwanted conclusions. Chomsky has also said that not enough is known about human nature to point to any political conclusions.
Evolutionary psychologist Glenn Wilson argues that "promoting recognition of the true power and role of instincts is not the same as advocating the total abandonment of social restraint". Evolutionary psychology critics have argued that researchers use their research to promote a right-wing agenda. Evolutionary psychologists conducted a study investigating the views of a sample of United States PhD psychology students.
The authors concluded that those who self-identified as adaptationists were much less conservative than the general population average. They also found no differences compared to non-adaptationist students and found non-adaptationists to express a preference for less strict and quantitative scientific methodology than adaptationists.
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This article's lead section does not adequately summarize key points of its contents. Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of all important aspects of the article. Please discuss this issue on the article's talk page. July See also: Biopsychiatry controversy. Main article: Modularity of mind. See also: Evolutionary ethics. Evolutionary thought in Psychology: A Brief History. American Psychologist.
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Invariant world, invariant mind. Evolutionary psychology and its critics. Inference to the best explanation. Routledge, Barrett also expands the scope of evolutionary psychology and notes the addition of research methods developed since Cosmides and Tooby first set out the parameters for research in the field. Todd Shackleford and Viviana Weekes-Shackleford have just completed a huge compendium of work in the evolutionarily based psychological sciences. In this volume a vast array of different research methods are presented and defended and there are a number of entries comparing the merits of alternative approaches to evolutionary psychology.
The methods for testing hypotheses in evolutionary psychology come mostly from psychology. Buss, Singh and other evolutionary psychologists emphasize the cross cultural validity of their results, claiming consistency in responses across a wide variety of human populations. But see Yu and Shepard ; Gray et al. For the most part standard psychological experimental methods are used to test hypotheses in evolutionary psychology. Shapiro and Epstein ; Lloyd ; Lloyd and Feldman A response profile may be prevalent in a wide variety of subject populations but this says nothing about whether or not the response profile is a psychological mechanism that arose from a particular selective regimen.
Claims that the mind has a modular architecture, and even massively modular architecture, are widespread in cognitive science see e. Hirshfield and Gelman The massive modularity thesis is first and foremost a thesis about cognitive architecture. As defended by evolutionary psychologists, the thesis is also about the source of our cognitive architecture: the massively modular architecture is the result of natural selection acting to produce each of the many modules see e. Barrett and Kurzban ; Barrett Our cognitive architecture is composed of computational devices, that are innate and are adaptations cf.
Samuels ; Samuels et al. This massively modular architecture accounts for all of our sophisticated behavior. Our successful navigation of the world results from the action of one or more of our many modules. Jerry Fodor was the first to mount a sustained philosophical defense of modularity as a theory of cognitive architecture Fodor His modularity thesis is distinct from the massive modularity thesis in a number of important ways.
The modular detection systems feed output to a central system, which is a kind of inference engine. Fodor presents a large number of arguments against the possibility of modular central systems. Fodor draws a bleak conclusion about the status of cognitive science from his examination of the character of central systems: cognitive science is impossible.
Carruthers is well aware that Fodor see e. Fodor does not believe that central systems can be modular but he presents arguments from evolutionary psychologists and others that support the modularity thesis for the whole mind. Perhaps one of the reasons that there is so much philosophical interest in evolutionary psychology is that discussions about the status of the massive modularity thesis are highly theoretical. Richard Samuels speculates that argument rather than empirical data is relied on, because the various competing modularity theses about central systems are hard to pull apart empirically.
Carruthers exemplifies this approach as he relies heavily on arguments for massive modularity often at the expense of specific empirical results that tell in favor of the thesis. There are many arguments for the massive modularity thesis. Some are based upon considerations about how evolution must have acted; some are based on considerations about the nature of computation and some are versions of the poverty of the stimulus argument first presented by Chomsky in support of the existence of an innate universal grammar. See Cowie for a nice presentation of the structure of poverty of the stimulus arguments.
Myriad versions of each of these arguments appear in the literature and many arguments for massive modularity mix and match components of each of the main strands of argumentation. Here we review a version of each type of argument. Each of these organs arises as a result of natural selection and the organs, acting together, contribute to the fitness of the organism. The functional decomposition is driven by the response to specific environmental stimuli.
Rather than natural selection acting to produce general purpose organs, each specific environmental challenge is dealt with by a separate mechanism. All versions of this argument are arguments from analogy, relying on the key transitional premise that minds are a kind of biological system upon which natural selection acts. The second type of argument makes no appeal to biological considerations whatsoever although many evolutionary psychologists give these arguments a biological twist.
Call this the computational argument, which unfolds as follows: minds are computational problem solving devices; there are specific types of solutions to specific types of problems; and so for minds to be successful general problem solving devices, they must consist of collections of specific problem solving devices, i. This type of argument is structurally similar to the biological argument as Carruthers points out. The key idea is that there is no sense to the idea of a general problem solver and that no headway can be made in cognitive science without breaking down problems into their component parts.
1.2 The Evolution of Psychology: History, Approaches, and Questions
Many evolutionary psychologists see e. Tooby and Cosmides appeal to the idea that there is neither enough time, or enough available information, for any given human to learn from scratch to successfully solve all of the problems that we face in the world. If we invoke this argument across the whole range of problem sets that humans face and solve, we arrive at a huge set of innate mechanisms that subserve our problem solving abilities, which is another way of saying that we have a massively modular mind.
There are numerous responses to the many versions of each of these types of arguments and many take on the massive modularity thesis head on without considering a specific argument for it. I will defer consideration of responses to the first argument type until section 4 below, which focuses on issues of the nature of evolution and natural selection — topics in philosophy of biology. The second type of argument is one side of a perennial debate in the philosophy of cognitive science.
Fodor , 68 takes this argument to rest on the unwarranted assumption that there is no domain-independent criterion of cognitive success, which he thinks requires an argument that evolutionary psychologists do not provide. Samuels see esp. Samuels responds to evolutionary psychologists that arguments of this type do not sufficiently discriminate between a conclusion about domain specific processing mechanisms and domain specific knowledge or information. The library model of cognition is not massively modular in the relevant sense but type two arguments support it.
According to Samuels, evolutionary psychologists need something more than this type of argument to warrant their specific kind of conclusion about massive modularity. Buller introduces further worries for this type of argument by tackling the assumption that there can be no such thing as a domain general problem solving mechanism. Buller worries that in their attempt to support this claim, evolutionary psychologists fail to adequately characterize a domain general problem solver. For example, they fail to distinguish between a domain general problem solver and a domain specific problem solver that is over generalized.
He offers the example of social learning as a domain general mechanism that would produce domain specific solutions to problems. He uses a nice biological analogy to drive this point home: the immune system is a domain general system in that it allows the body to respond to a wide variety of pathogens. While it is true that the immune system produces domain specific responses to pathogens in the form of specific antibodies, the antibodies are produced by one domain general system.
These and many other respondents conclude that type two arguments do not adequately support the massive modularity thesis. Fodor and Kim Sterelny provide different responses to type three arguments. Sterelny responds to the generalizing move in type three arguments. He takes language to be the exception rather than the rule in the sense that while the postulation of an innate, domain specific module may be warranted to account for our language abilities, much of our other problem solving behavior can be accounted for without postulating such modules Sterelny , For example, he accounts for folk psychology and folk biology by appealing to environmental factors, some of which are constructed by our forebears, that allow us to perform sophisticated cognitive tasks.
If we can account for our success at various complex problem solving tasks, without appealing to modules, then the massive modularity thesis is undercut. Sterelny sharpens his response to massive modularity by adding more detail to his accounts of how many of our uniquely human traits may have evolved see e. Sterelny Cecilia Heyes adopts a similar approach to Sterenly in attacking massive modularity. Rather than presenting arguments against massive modularity, she offers alternative explanations of the development of folk psychology that do not rely on the massive modularity thesis Heyes a; Heyes b.
Heyes and Sterelny not only reject massive modularity but also have little expectation that any modularity theses will bear fruit but there are many critics of the massive modularity thesis who allow for the possibility of some modularity of mind. Such critics of evolutionary psychology do not reject the possibility of any kind of modularity, they just reject the massive modularity thesis. There is considerable debate about the status of the massive modularity thesis and some of this debate centers around the characterization of modules.
If modules have all the characteristics that Fodor first presented, then he may be right that central systems are not modular. Both Carruthers and Barrett and Kurzban present modified characterizations of modules, which they argue better serve the massive modularity thesis. Many philosophers have criticized evolutionary psychology. Downes What is at stake are differing views about how to best characterize evolution and hence how to generate evolutionary hypotheses and how to test evolutionary hypotheses. For evolutionary psychologists, the most interesting contribution that evolutionary theory makes is the explanation of apparent design in nature or the explanation of the production of complex organs by appeal to natural selection.
Evolutionary psychologists generate evolutionary hypotheses by first finding apparent design in the world, say in our psychological make up, and then presenting a selective scenario that would have led to the production of the trait that exhibits apparent design. The hypotheses evolutionary psychologists generate, given that they are usually hypotheses about our psychological capacities, are tested by standard psychological methods. Philosophers of biology challenge evolutionary psychologists on both of these points. I introduce a few examples of criticisms in each of these two areas below and then look at some responses to philosophical criticisms of evolutionary psychology.
Adaptation is the one biological concept that is central to most debates over evolutionary psychology.
Every theoretical work on evolutionary psychology presents the research tradition as being primarily focused on psychological adaptations and goes on to give an account of what adaptations are see e. Tooby and Cosmides ; Buss et al. Much of the philosophical criticism of evolutionary psychology addresses its approach to adaptation or its form of adaptationism. Let us quickly review the basics from the perspective of philosophy of biology. Sober makes a few further clarifications of the notion of adaptation that are helpful.
First, we should distinguish between a trait that is adaptive and a trait that is an adaptation.
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Any number of traits can be adaptive without those traits being adaptations. A sea turtles forelegs are useful for digging in the sand to bury eggs but they are not adaptations for nest building Sober , Also, traits can be adaptations without being currently adaptive for a given organism. Vestigial organs such as our appendix or vestigial eyes in cave dwelling organisms are examples of such traits Sterelny and Griffiths Second, we should distinguish between ontogenic and phylogenetic adaptations Sober , The adaptations of interest to evolutionary biologists are phylogenetic adaptations, which arise over evolutionary time and impact the fitness of the organism.
Ontogenetic adaptations, including any behavior we learn in our lifetimes, can be adaptive to the extent that an organism benefits from them but they are not adaptations in the relevant sense. Finally, adaptation and function are closely related terms. On one of the prominent views of function—the etiological view of functions—adaptation and function are more or less coextensive; to ask for the function of an organ is to ask why it is present.
Sterelny and Griffiths , — Evolutionary psychologists focus on psychological adaptations. The way in which psychological adaptations are identified is by evolutionary functional analysis, which is a type of reverse engineering. While it is true that evolutionary functional analysis can lend itself to just-so story telling, this is not the most interesting problem that confronts evolutionary psychology, several other interesting problems have been identified.
Buller thinks that evolutionary psychologists overemphasize design and that they make the contentious assumption that with respect to the traits they are interested in, evolution is finished, rather than ongoing. Rather, clutch size in birds , schooling in fish , leaf arrangement, foraging strategies and all manner of traits can be adaptations cf. Seger and Stubblefield Buller argues the more general point that phenotypic plasticity of various types can be an adaptation, because it arises in various organisms as a result of natural selection. For evolutionary psychologists, the hallmark of natural selection is a well functioning organ and for their critics, the results of natural selection can be seen in an enormous range of traits ranging from the specific apparent design features of organs to the most general response profiles in behavior.
According to Buller, this latter approach opens up the range of possible evolutionary hypotheses that can account for human behavior. Rather than being restricted to accounting for our behavior in terms of the joint output of many specific modular mechanisms, we can account for our behavior by appealing to selection acting upon many different levels of traits. This difference in emphasis on what is important in evolutionary theory also is at the center of debates between evolutionary psychologists and behavioral ecologists, who argue that behaviors, rather than just the mechanisms that underlie them, can be adaptations cf.
Further, this difference in emphasis is what leads to the wide range of alternate evolutionary hypotheses that Sterelny Sterelny presents to explain human behavior. Rather, they are critical of the narrow explanatory scope of the type of adaptationism evolutionary psychologists adopt cf. Evolutionary psychologists are usually less interested in human characteristics that vary due to genetic differences because they recognize that these differences are unlikely to be evolved adaptations central to human nature.
See Downes and Machery for more discussion of this and other, contrasting biologically based accounts of human nature. The problem here is that it is false to assume that adaptations cannot be subject to variation. The underlying problem is the constrained notion of adaptation. Adaptations are traits that arise as a result of natural selection and not traits that exhibit design and are universal in a given species cf. As a result, it is quite consistent to argue, as Buller does, that many human traits may still be under selection and yet reasonably be called adaptations.
Finally, philosophers of biology have articulated several different types of adaptationism see e. Godfrey-Smith ; Lewens ; Sober Explanatory adaptationism is the view that apparent design is one of the big questions we face in explaining our natural world and natural selection is the big and only supportable answer to such a big question. Explanatory adaptationism is often adopted by those who want to distinguish evolutionary thinking from creationism or intelligent design and is the way evolutionary psychologists often couch their work to distinguish it from their colleagues in the broader social sciences.
While explanatory adaptationism does serve to distinguish evolutionary psychology from such markedly different approaches to accounting for design in nature, it does not place many clear constraints on the way in which evolutionary explanations should be sought cf. So far these are disagreements that are located in differing views about the nature and scope of evolutionary explanation but they have ramifications in the discussion about hypothesis testing.
If the traits of interest to evolutionary psychologists are universally distributed, then we should expect to find them in all humans. This partly explains the stock that evolutionary psychologists put in cross cultural psychological tests see e. Buss If we find evidence for the trait in a huge cross section of humans, then this supports our view that the trait is an adaptation —on the assumption that adaptations are organ-like traits that are products of natural selection but not subject to variation.
But given the wider scope view of evolution defended by philosophers of biology, this method of testing seems wrong-headed as a test of an evolutionary hypothesis. Certainly such testing can result in the very interesting results that certain preference profiles are widely shared cross culturally but the test does not speak to the evolutionary hypothesis that the preferences are adaptations cf. Lloyd ; Buller Buller dedicates several chapters of his book on evolutionary psychology to an examination of hypothesis testing and many of his criticisms center around the introduction of alternate hypotheses that do as good a job, or a better job, of accounting for the data.
This debate hangs on how the empirical tests come out. The previous debate is more closely connected to theoretical issues in philosophy of biology. I said in my introduction that there is a broad consensus among philosophers of science that evolutionary psychology is a deeply flawed enterprise and some philosophers of biology continue to remind us of this sentiment see e.
Dupre However the relevant consensus is not complete, there are some proponents of evolutionary psychology among philosophers of science. One way of defending evolutionary psychology is to rebut criticism. Another way to defend evolutionary psychology is to practice it at least to the extent that philosophers can, i. This is what Robert Arp does in a recent article. I briefly review both responses below. Machery and Barrett argue that Buller has no clear critical target as there is nothing to the idea that there is a research tradition of evolutionary psychology that is distinct from the broader enterprise of the evolutionary understanding of human behavior.
They argue that theoretical tenets and methods are shared by many in the biology of human behavior. For example, many are adaptationists. But as we saw above, evolutionary psychologists and behavioral ecologists can both call themselves adaptationist but their particular approach to adaptationism dictates the range of hypotheses that they can generate, the range of traits that can be counted as adaptations and impacts upon the way in which hypotheses are tested.
Research traditions can share some broad theoretical commitments and yet still be distinct research traditions. They take this to be a claim that no adaptations can arise from an evolutionary arms race situation, for example, between predators and prey. But again, I think that the disagreement here is over what counts as an adaptation. Buller does not deny that adaptations— traits that arise as a product of natural selection—arise from all kinds of unstable environments.
What he denies is that organ-like, special purpose adaptations are the likely result of such evolutionary scenarios. Arp defends a hypothesis about a kind of module—scenario visualization—a psychological adaptation that arose in our hominid history in response to the demands of tool making, such as constructing spear throwing devices for hunting.
As neither of these alternative accounts rely on the postulation of psychological modules, evolutionary psychology is not adequately defended. Many philosophers who work on moral psychology understand that their topic is empirically constrained. Philosophers take two main approaches to using empirical results in moral psychology.
One is to use empirical results and empirically based theories from psychology to criticize philosophical accounts of moral psychology see e. Doris and one is to generate and, in the experimental philosophy tradition, to test hypotheses about our moral psychology see e. Nichols For those who think that some or all of our moral psychology is based in innate capacities, evolutionary psychology is a good source of empirical results and empirically based theory.
One account of the make-up of our moral psychology follows from the massive modularity account of the architecture of the mind. Our moral judgments are a product of domain specific psychological modules that are adaptations and arose in our hominid forebears in response to contingencies in our mostly social environments. This position is currently widely discussed by philosophers working in moral psychology. An example of this discussion follows. Cosmides see e. Cosmides along with Tooby argues that cheating is a violation of a particular kind of conditional rule that goes along with a social contract.
Social exchange is a system of cooperation for mutual benefit and cheaters violate the social contract that governs social exchange Cosmides and Tooby The selection pressure for a dedicated cheat detection module is the presence of cheaters in the social world. The cheater detection module is an adaptation that arose in response to cheaters.
The cheater detection hypothesis has been the focus of a huge amount of critical discussion. Cosmides and Tooby defend the idea that cheat detection is modular over hypotheses that more general rules of inference are involved in the kind of reasoning behind cheater detection against critics Ron Mallon and Fodor Some criticism of the cheater detection hypothesis involves rehashing criticisms of massive modularity in general and some treats the hypothesis as a contribution to moral psychology and invokes different considerations. For example, Mallon worries about the coherence of abandoning a domain general conception of ought in our conception of our moral psychology.
This discussion is also ongoing. See e. Sterelny for a selection of alternate, non-modular explanations of aspects of our moral psychology. Evolutionary psychology is well suited to providing an account of human nature. As noted above Section 1 , evolutionary psychology owes a theoretical debt to human sociobiology. Wilson took human sociobiology to provide us with an account of human nature For Wilson human nature is the collection of universal human behavioral repertoires and these behavioral repertoires are best understood as being products of natural selection.
Evolutionary psychologists argue that human nature is not a collection of universal human behavioral repertoires but rather the universal psychological mechanisms underlying these behaviors Tooby and Cosmides These universal psychological mechanisms are products of natural selection, as we saw in Section 2. For example, he thinks of bi-pedalism as part of the human nature trait cluster. He shares the idea that a trait must be a product of evolution, rather than say social learning or enculturation, with both these accounts.
Some critical challenges to evolutionary psychological accounts of human nature and the nomological account derive from similar concerns as those driving criticism of evolutionary psychology in general. In Section 4. Some critics charge evolutionary psychologists of assuming that adaptation cannot sustain variation. Hull ; and Sober The idea here is that humans, like all organisms, exhibit a great deal of variation, including morphological, physiological, behavioral and cultural variation cf.
Amundson Buller argues that the evolutionary psychology account of human nature either ignores or fails to account for all of this variation c. Lewens ; Odenbaugh Forthcoming; and Ramsey Any account that restricts human nature to just those traits we have in common and which also are not subject to change, cannot account for human variation. The idea that to account for human nature, we must account for human variation is presented and defended by evolutionary psychologists see e.
Barrett , anthropologists see e. Cashdan and philosophers see e. Griffiths and Ramsey Barrett agrees with Buller and others that evolutionary psychologists have failed to account for human variation in their account of human nature. Rather than seeing this challenge as a knock down of the whole enterprise of accounting for human nature, Barrett sees this as a challenge for an account of human nature.
Rather than human nature being a collection of shared fixed universal psychological traits, for Barrett, human nature is the whole human trait cluster, including all of the variation in all of our traits. This approach to human nature is sharply different than the approach defended by either Wilson, Tooby and Cosmides or Machery but is also subject to a number of criticisms. The main thrust of the criticisms is that such a view cannot be explanatory and is instead merely a big list of all the properties that humans have had and can have See e.
Buller ; Downes ; Futuyma ; and Lewens Another example of this broader discussion is included in Section 7. Evolutionary psychology is invoked in a wide range of areas of study, for example, in English Literature, Consumer Studies and Law. See Buss for discussion of Literature and Law and Saad for a detailed presentation of evolutionary psychology and consumer studies. In these contexts, evolutionary psychology is usually introduced as providing resources for practitioners, which will advance the relevant field. Philosophers have responded critically to some of these applications of evolutionary psychology.
One concern is that often evolutionary psychology is conflated with evolution or evolutionary theory in general see e. Leiter and Weisberg and Downes The discussion reviewed in Section 4. Evolutionary psychologists offer to enhance fields such as Law and Consumer Studies by introducing evolutionary ideas but what is in fact offered is a selection of theoretical resources championed only by proponents of a specific approach to evolutionary psychology. For example, Gad Saad argues that Consumer Studies will profit greatly from the addition of adaptive thinking, i. Many do not see this as an effort to bring evolutionary theory, broadly construed, to bear on Consumer Studies cf.
Promoting disputed theoretical ideas is certainly problematic but bigger worries arise when thoroughly discredited work is promoted in the effort to apply evolutionary psychology. Owen Jones see e. Leiter and Weisberg Aside from monitoring the expansion efforts of evolutionary psychology, there are a number of other areas in which further philosophical work on evolutionary psychology will be fruitful. The examples given above of work in moral psychology barely scratches the surface of this rapidly developing field.
There are huge numbers of empirical hypotheses that bear on our conception of our moral psychology that demand philosophical scrutiny. Hauser includes a survey of a wide range of such hypotheses. Also, work on moral psychology and the emotions can be drawn together via work on evolutionary psychology and related fields. Griffiths directed philosophical attention to evolution and the emotions and this kind of work has been brought into closer contact with moral psychology by Nichols see e.
In philosophy of mind there is still much that can be done on the topic of modules. Work on integrating biological and psychological concepts of modules is one avenue that is being pursued and could be fruitfully pursued further see e. Barrett and Kurzban ; Carruthers and work on connecting biology to psychology via genetics is another promising area see e. Marcus