Psychological Darwinism

Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by ExpectantlyIronic, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑

    Rationalists are said to be people who think many human ideas or psychological features are written in our minds from the beginning. This could be anything from the theory of gravity to the capability to do basic math. As you can see, there is an extreme and old version of this notion, and a newer one. Descartes thought all human knowledge awaited in our minds to be unlocked through reason, whereas modern rationalists make the less bold claim that many human psychological traits are innate.

    Empiricists are those who think the mind is mainly a 'blank slate' at birth. They think the world imprints itself in our brains through sensory experience, and that we mainly learn through observation. Much like modern rationalists, modern empiricists are somewhat tempered, in that they do not deny certain psychological traits like an aversion to pain are innate; just that such things are generally the exception.

    This brings us to psychological Darwinism, which is the idea that evolutionary processes have a strong effect on our psychological traits: from who we find attractive, to perhaps what our favorite sport is. As you can imagine, this idea is highly controversial. Do I start smoking because of cultural circumstances, or because I have an innate propensity to inhale the smoke of burning leaves through a paper tube given to me by evolutionary processes? Is there an innate quality explainable by evolutionary narratives that makes people prefer Pepsi or Coke, or is it cultural on the main?

    For my part--I think I am expected to give an opinion on a topic I start--it seems that saying all human psychological traits as they manifest in individuals can be explained through evolutionary narratives is a bit extreme. Yes, genetic traits play a part, but a knowledge of only the genetic traits of a given individual is not sufficient to infer the entirety of their psychological landscape. So I seem to buy into a weak form of psychological Darwinism, though I am skeptical if anyone buys into a strong form of the idea as I have outlined it, and if the entire debate around it is much more than semantics.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2009

  2. ysabel

    ysabel /ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5

    I've been reading some articles about evolutionary psych and their assertions and yes, they can be controversial. The latest one I've read spoke of rape or sleeping around as increasing man's evolutionary fitness and that's one of the reasons it's done.

    I wouldn't say they're completely nonsense, but I'm not ready to embrace the theories without feeling skeptic every now and then. Who knows, maybe that was my mental module (as they would say) from the start and that's why I think this way, haha.

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