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Friday, June 05, 2009

Laughter Evolved but Is It Adaptive?

Jerry Coyne wrote an interesting article about the evolution of laughter. He closes with ..
So laughter, at least when being tickled, appears to be an evolved, innate phenomenon. As I emphasized above, this says nothing about whether it was selected for directly, whether it was a byproduct of something else that was selected, or is simply a nonadaptive epiphenomenon. But as I write, evolutionary psychologists are working on why evolution may have promoted laughter.
Of course evolutionary psychologists are busy working on an adaptive just-so story. That's what they do. You won't catch them explaining anything as an accident or an epiphenomenon.

1 comment :

  1. Every trait we have is evolved somehow or another.. the question is whether it's been selected for or merely what Gould terms a "spandrel".

    I find that the more micro the biologist (getting into genetics and biochem, especially), the more they look down on evopsych... Adaptive explanations with no corroborating data are certainly not useful, but is the derision really that deserved the rest of the time? Yes, that's an actual question, not a rhetorical one.