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Thread: Evolutionary Psychology

  1. #1 Evolutionary Psychology 
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    I wrote this post for another forum, however the topic was locked since a moderator found it to be sexist. It is my opinion that the truth cannot be sexist, I am hoping that this forum will be more open to my reasoning on the subject. Here is the original post: http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=56974

    So I feel like it would be productive to start an open topic about evo psych, since it seems to generate a lot of hate on these forums. I'll start the topic off by giving a brief overview of what evolutionary psychology is, and dispel a few misconceptions about the argument evolutionary psychologists are making.

    In traditional evolution traits that improve a creatures chances of survival and replication are preferred by the process of natural selection. It goes something like this: A woman has a larger hip to waist ratio => a woman and her child are more likely to survive childbirth as opposed to A woman has a smaller hip to waist ratio => a woman and her child are less likely to survive childbirth. Even if these traits provide only a very small advantage (.1% increased chance of reproduction), it can still end up dominating the gene pool if that small advantage is compounded over hundreds of thousands of years in evolution. When we're working backwards to understand why humans have certain traits, it works much like this:

    Most women have wide hips. = why? => If a woman has wider hips, she's more likely to survive child birth.

    Enter evolutionary psychology! Ev Psych works in a fashion that is exactly the same as traditional evolution: Men and Women are innately protective of their offspring => Their offspring are more likely to survive and replicate. And the reverse engineering aspect works similarly as well:

    Most humans are protective of their offspring = why? => If a creature is more protective of it's offspring, it's offspring are more likely to survive and replicate.

    Here's where the controversy starts. The opposition to EP states here that there's more than one potential cause for psychological commonalities. Namely: culture. Let me take this opportunity to lay this out straight: no credible Evolutionary Psychologist is claiming that culture has no role in human behavior, rather we argue that they both have their place in influencing our psychology. Some points that should be made about this controversy:

    -Anyone even slightly reasonable will not deny that EP plays some role in human behavior. There is no feasible cultural explanation for base emotions like anger, jealousy, fear, and the like.
    -Certain parallel behaviors appear within nature: males in many species will refuse to raise a child they discover is not their own (I believe most actually, you would be hard pressed to find a creature that will willing raise a child that it knows is not it's own besides humans) , peahens will disproportionately select peacocks who display traits attributed to good health, etc. This point is especially important because it shows that an outright denial of any EP influence suggests that we're immune from the same forces that shape all other species. From an evolutionary stand point, such a claim makes no sense.

    Of course, none of what I said before is particularly controversial. The real controversy comes when Evolutionary Psychologists start suggesting that there are innate psychological differences between men and women. I expect the majority of this topic will be spent arguing this so let me lay out the argument for Evo Psych and the evidence supporting it.

    Evolutionary psychologists do not deny the societal factor, they acknowledge it. What they're attempting to do is determine what parts of our behavior are influenced by culture, and what parts are influenced by biology. At the same time Evolutionary Psychologists deny the claim that there are no innate gender differences, because the evidence strongly suggests otherwise:

    For example, Men and Women have common mating preferences, even across cultures. While men tend to favor physical traits like h to w ratio , women tend to favor men who have a strong work ethic, and are rich/successful [1]. 1 yr old children, almost completely untouched by the biases of society can be observed displaying gender specific preferences. When presented two television screens, one showing a woman's face, another showing a moving automobile, the male newborns focused disproportionately on the mobile, while the female newborns focused disproportionately on the face. [2] Both of these studies present gender differences that can't be accounted for by societal influences.

    I'm sure some people will argue that this is sexist. But I don't believe the truth can be sexist. Should woman be forced to become stay at home moms because they might be more genetically inclined to nurture children? No, of course not. But I don't see how denying the reality of the situation gets us anywhere. Anyways feel free to discuss, particularly good arguments (or particularly bad ones) might be added to the OP and possibly addressed there.
    Does anyone else here have an opinion on the subject?


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  3. #2  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Yes, we have some innate tendencies, and genetic sex can sometimes influence what those are, but soicety plays the greater role in how it is expressed. What exactly is the question here? We ALL have different potentials when born, and we ALL have different environments which determine how (and how much of) that potential gets expressed.

    What exactly are you asking about or trying to explore here?


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  4. #3  
    Time Lord
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    Nothing really controversial there. Actually it's mild compared to views of our resident authority and former moderator, Paralith, who sadly vanished a few months back. Perhaps you can remind us why females ought to spurn ill-groomed losers with dead-end careers?

    Regarding humans I see more through cultural & feminist lenses, but I admit these emerged from evolved psychology.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  5. #4  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    JonScholar, I couldn't see anything controversial in what you were saying. Could you highlight what it is you expect us (or at least some of us) to disagree with?
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