Thursday, September 14, 2006

Evolutionary psychology — adaptationism defined sub specie Leibnitz

Adaptationism: “The Leibnitzian view of how gene-based evolutionary changes produce the optimal development of traits in individuals, therefore individuals as individuals, and secondarily, species composed of groups of such individuals.

Now, no confirmed Ev Psycher may like that definition, but if the shoe fits, that adaptationism claims this is the best of all evolutionarily possible worlds (or nearly so) …

How else can you describe a theory that says most or all traits are optimal adaptations? It’s too bad Gould was too mild-mannered, and neither Eldridge nor Lewontin among others has the pen of a Voltaire to have produced this definition already.

And that is why I am not an Evolutionary Psychologist, although I do certainly consider myself to be some sort of evolutionary psychologist (per Buller).

Another way to look at this, perhaps, is to see that adaptationism, whether specifically put in the service of Ev Psych or not, smacks of utopianism. Materialist utopianism, perhaps; less-than-all utopianism, when compared to religious utopias, dependent on the “omnis” of traditional theology. BUT, utopianism, nonetheless, and arguably a more dangerous utopianism precisely because it’s in the guise of a scientific theory.

Sure, the “optimal development” traits tend toward may be hedged, with “many” or “most.” OK, then I’ll hedge my previous paragraph and call adaptationism quasi-utopian.

Nonetheless, I am an ev psycher, in small letters. I’m a naturalist, it seems clear the brain is the mind (making allowance for neurotransmitter chemicals outside the brain), I believe in evolution, even as details of the neo-Darwinian synthesis get hammered out toward a neo-neo-Darwinian synthesis (influenced by developments in areas such as symbiosis). Anyhow, take a naturalist approach that brain=mind, combine that with an acceptance of evolutionary theory, and QED, the mind must evolve along with the rest of homo sapiens (and other critters).

Just not in the way that Ev Psychers claim, including not “optimally.”

Some critiques of Ev Psych are right; its proponents have sniffed too much Paley, not nearly enough Hume, else they’d be much more skeptical about “optimal” ANYTHING in evolutionary biology.

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