What have we learned from evolutionary psychology?


Evolutionary psychology claims biological inclinations for certain behaviors (e.g., a desire for more frequent sex and more sexual partners by males as compared to females), and the origin of these inclinations in natural selection. Jerry Fodor’s recent book, The Mind Doesn’t Work that Way (2000), grants the nativist case for such biological grounding but disputes the presumed certainty of its origin in natural selection. Nevertheless, there is today a consensus that at least some of the claims of evolutionary psychology are true, and their broad appeal suggests that many see them as easy insights into and possible license for some controversial behaviors. Evolutionary psychologists, on the other hand, caution that an origin in natural selection implies only an inclination for certain behaviors, and not that the behaviors will be true of all people, will lead to happiness or are morally correct. But such cautions can be as facile as the simplistic positions they are intended to counter. A biological basis implies tendencies to behaviors that will be pleasurable when engaged in, and that can be modified to an extent and at a psychic cost that is, at best, not fully understood. Also, while it is true that naturally selected behaviors are not necessarily moral, the implications of current evolutionary psychology cast doubt on any absolute foundation for morality at all, as well as suggesting limits on our ability to fully understand both ourselves and the universe around us. However, this does not mean that our (relative) values or apparent free will are any less real or important for us

Author's Profile

Marc Krellenstein
Northeastern University


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