Sunday, June 21, 2009

Common Sense, Rationalism, and other Points of Views

Steven Pinker is an evolutionary psychologist. In this debate he defends that point of view. The other participants in the debate don't agree and I think they make a lot of sense.

You can also listen to Steve Jones defend the idea that human evolution has stopped. In that discussion you'll probably notice that random genetic drift isn't mentioned. I get the impression that most of the time none of the participants think about anything other than natural selection when they're discussing evolution. (But see part 5, where "random variation" is briefly mentioned.) However, I'm sure they'll deny that they are adaptationists when challenged. I'm sure they'll swear up and down that they know all about the other mechanisms of evolution.


  1. Larry, Steven Pinker once said in an interview:

    "Certainly in my own field, psychology, there are many bogus evolutionary explanations. Why did we evolve happiness? Well, because happy people are nicer to be around, so happier people have more allies. Why is there religion? Well, it brings the community together, and it's good for groups to cohere. And one gets a sense that these explanations are fraudulent. And I think they are. And the reason is that they don't have an indepently motivated engineering analysis of the trait in question that would define a world, define an outcome in the world where the outcome would be a subgoal for the goal of reproduction, describe an optimal algorithm for attaining that goal in that world, comparing the trait for that algorithm, which you developed completely independently of psychology, something that you could build or prove a theorem about, and then have a detailed comparison of the specs, the engineering specifications of that system and human behaviour. And the more parallels there are between an optimal goal-attainer in some world and how humans actually do behave, the more scientific confidence that you have that that explanation is correct. So the examples that I gave are ones where I think there's a reasonable amount of plausibility, because in each case the optimality analysis could be done independently of human psychology."

    Would you not say that he at least understands some of the problems that evolutionary psychology faces and that some of its proponents fall prey to?

  2. Maybe people like landscapes for their beauty. Pinker is a fool.