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Less Wrong post questions evo psych August 17, 2010

Posted by Summerspeaker in Evo psych, Feminism, Transhumanism.
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I must say I’m impressed. Kaj Sotala has provided a timely critique of the field. Too many transhumanists (and others) take the claims coming about of evolutionary psychology at face value. Sotala’s paragraph on gender is worth quoting in full:

Memetic pressures shaping cultures. When trying to show the existence of biological sex differences, evolutionary psychologists sometimes appeal to cross-cultural studies that show sex differences across a wide variety of cultures. But while this is certainly evidence towards the differences being biological in origin, it’s rather weak evidence. Pretty much all cultures in the world tend to be more or less patriarchal in nature. This could be caused by biological causes, but it’s equally plausible that it was caused by a memetic selection pressure acting on non-psychological sex differences. Women have less strength than men and are the ones who bear children, which could easily have affected their social position even without drastic psychological differences. Occasionally, the studies purporting to show cross-cultural sex differences actually show that the differences are smaller in the more egalitarian countries.

That’s it exactly. Worse still, attempting to give present-day male-supremacist behaviors the sanction of evolution has immediately harmful political implications. The patriarchy, of course, is a global human rights crisis.  This would be why some folks in the humanities discount the whole idea of evolutionary psychology. Because of what they’ve seen so far, they reject the possibility that it could be done well.

The Panksepp critique of the field from a neuroscience perspective also deserves mention here.

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