Thursday, December 20, 2007


What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Continued...

'we cannot be sure of the genetic and evolutionary origin of most human behaviours. It is difficult or impossible to test many of the conjectures of evolutionary psychology. Thus, we can say only that behaviours such as the sexual predilections of men and women and the extreme competitiveness of males are consistent with evolutionary psychology.' (p. 19) - Professor Jerry Coyne, Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago

Of course, its also consistent with all sorts of other theories, including ID, and various forms of creationism as well! Moreover, if we can't be sure of the genetic and evolutionary origin of most human behaviours, we can't be sure that these behaviours actually have genetic and evolutionary explanations - at least, we can't be sure on an empirical basis. In other words, the assumption that most human behaviours have genetic and evolutionary explanations is just that, an assumption. It might be a correct assumption - or it might be an incorrect assumption. How could we tell? Significantly, how could we tell whilst adhering to the assumptions that: naturalism is true, Darwinism is true, and methodological naturalism is a defining constraint upon scientific theorising? Seems to me that it would be pretty hard to tell... in which case, perhaps such assumptions aren't particularly helpful assumptions.

Coyne also complains: 'there is no trait that cannot be explained by some evolutionary story.' (p. 20) That includes, of course, the trait of trying to explain things by some evolutionary story or other! Thus, any attempt to explain away human traits (e.g. religiosity) in terms of evolutionary psychology is self-contradictory.

And he affirms that: 'genetics is not destiny, but neither are we completely free of our evolutionary baggage.' (p. 21) I concur.

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