I am the biggest fan of evo psych.
And if you can get beyond that preposterous statement, I’m also an aficionado of HBD even though many of its tenets thoroughly banish me to the wash with all my dim-witted brethren. That’s cool though. I have always believed there is an inherent, biologically-based element in our physical assemblage which predisposes us to a confined range of behaviors and cognitions.
So yeah, I’m a big fan of this evo psych/HBD-sphere I find myself circling or orbiting, whichever metaphor fits.
Despite my tendency to humor most evo psych schools of cultural interpretation, I’m a bit unorthodox in that I doubt many of the ideological motifs that most HBDers take for granted. I presume much of our behavior is rooted in hereditary and biological evolution, but I think many ostensible behaviors, upon close scrutiny, might not hold up as many of these people wish.
Evo psych, while supplying a very powerful tool by which to view our present behaviors in an evolutionary context, tends to be propped to obsessive levels of dogmatic acceptance by many of its proponents. Strangely, most evo psych is essentially unverified and unverifiable. Much of it is theoretical interpretation and extrapolation of present behaviors within the realm of evolution and top experts exert their reputation by issuing the most random and unrestrained suppositions which many in the audience nod to while muttering “oh yeah, why of course…”
Evo psych is like a Lit class of biological antiquity.
I was an English Lit major and I loved reading old stories, poems, and plays from the perspective of calculated examination and interpretation. We’d sit in the class, 20 or 30 of us, each spewing our own interpretation of a piece, each equally valid but different, and in the end, there was only more confusion and still no clear interpretation. That’s how I see evo psych. It’s all interpretation and detective work and how can we honestly be sure that the female hypergamous drive is evolutionarily driven at all. Maybe it is a modern tendency of Post-Industrial culture. Perhaps hypergamy is the female response to excessive idleness and luxury. Females, having seen their former role of housemaid lifted, responded with childish impetuousness. All presuppositions are equally valid and though the majority may side with or against certain theories, the bottom line is that all theories carry substrance.
In the past couple of days I’ve read a couple of evo psych-tinged presumptions which left me slightly unfulfilled; they seem logical, but upon closer examination, leave me scratching my head. Unconvinced.
The first was a link over on Mangan’s which cited an article by Satoshi Kanazawa who writes a blog for Psychology Today titled “The Scientific Fundamentalist.” In his post, Kanazawa, writes about solid data illustrating the fact that intelligent people (as measured by IQ) tend to drink more than their less intelligent counterparts. He writes, “… more intelligent children, both in the United Kingdom and the United States, grow up to consume alcohol more frequently and in greater quantities than less intelligent children. Controlling for a large number of demographic variables, such as sex, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, number of children, education, earnings, depression, satisfaction with life, frequency of socialization with friends, number of recent sex partners, childhood social class, mother’s education, and father’s education, more intelligent children grow up to drink more alcohol in the UK and the US.”
Despite a humorous jab at Al Gore, Kanazawa retreats into a state of inflexible scientific fixation as he attributes the heavier drinking among intelligent people to a phenomena he calls evolutionary novelty. He fills in some background info detailing the history of “intentional” alcohol consumption in humans which dates back 7,000-10,000 years, and thus, cannot be considered evolutionarily ingrained in our primal nature. So it’s a novelty because we’ve not adapted to drinking, and since it’s an evolutionary novelty and the most intelligent are the most likely to embrace evolutionary novelty, heavy drinkers are embracing evolutionary novelty because they are more intelligent. To paraphrase. I wondered…in this context of evolutionary fine-tuning and purging, will man, in 1,000 years, be able to drink a case of Budweiser and not show the slightest effect?
Based on my anecdotal knowledge, I wouldn’t dispute the essence of Kanazawa’s thesis. Intelligent people do drink more, but can we lay the blame at the feet of evo psych?
I cannot, especially based on the principle of evolutionary novelty.
Intelligent people do drink more but it’s owing to a multitude of social and cultural factors that are transparently shielded by the principle theory asserted by Kanazawa here. There are so many factors at play which dictate why an intelligent person is more likely to love drinking that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Evolutionary novelty is a vague, elusive notion. It seems applicable to almost any situation. If we jumped off bridges, evolutionary novelty would be on our side and as they scrape our innards off the rocks below, we can gloat in our transcendence of this novelty. We haven’t grown wings and I doubt evolutionary novelty will do such a favor for us even if every man, woman and child jumped off a bridge in the years to come. I’ll tell you what would happen…human extinction. Evolutionary novelty would spell the death of the human race if we all embarked on a lemming rush over the cliff. Using evolutionary novelty as a reason for heavy drinking milks a sense of derivative logic here…connecting too many dots to create a jumbled morass we can call a logical map. No, there is a deeper societal factor at play which steers the typical psyche of an intelligent modern person to drink more; drinking is a function of many traits which are character-driven cohorts of intelligence, and more importantly, sobriety is an antagonistic factor which correlates directly with many sub-intellgient traits. I think there is an intriguing function to explore here in the intelligence->alcohol consumption dichotomy, but I would hardly expect it to transgress into the evo psych territory.
And today, on everyone’s fave, Citizen Renegade, a great post called “The Forager/Farmer Thesis Is Wrong” in which Chateau apparently launches the opening salvo of a fledging feud between himself and Robin Hanson of Overcoming Bias. I will not detail the substance of the post, which essentially takes Hanson to task for asserting that our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors represented the Yin “liberal” facet of humanity whereas the relatively modern farmer/agriculturalist represents the Yang “conservative” aspect of mankind. An intriguing argument in itself and I suspect this is just the beginning of an entertaining ping pong match of HBD paddles.
But no, I’m taking Chateau to task for a rote truism he lobbed out in his post.
I’ve heard it repeated, a blindly accepted observation from HBD evo psych types.
He diverted onto the subject of jealousy.
He wrote, “If we were built for polyamory as Ryan claims, or free love promiscuity as Hanson says, then jealousy would not have evolved to the extent it did (among Euro-descended people at least) to become a powerfully ingrained emotional hindbrain response to infidelity or suspicions of cheating.”
Once again, I hark back to the alcohol.
Jealousy as an “ingrained emotional hindbrain?”
Jealousy as an impetus of the mating game?
I don’t see the connection nor the extension of logic.
Jealousy indeed pervades many levels of social life; yet, many jealousies are not socio-sexual at all.
Jealousy is a blade of the ego and it bucks against unfairness and externally imposed obscurity. Jealousy is a social manufacture of the higher brain. Jealousy is hardly instinctive; rather, it’s pathological.
If you were to extend it back far enough into our evolutionary antiquity, is jealousy really such a formidable adaption?
How can personal fixation be considered an adaption when you live in a primitive, pre-societal world in which females are yours for the taking? Under such conditions of free-wheeling aggressively procured pussy, isn’t fixation on one specimen counterproductive to your mating rampage? Jealousy, in this context, is counterproductive to procreation. Jealousy is a social and psychological byproduct of modern human emotional attachment, and in this respect, probably a much newer evolutionary player than even the fermentation of alcohol, and thus, is not truly an evolutionary item. A primitive forebear who forsakes mating because of an obsessive pursuit of a targeted female (one of many) will succumb to the mating dance over generations.
Jealousy is not a hind brain or evolutionary item.
It did nothing to emancipate male urges, and in fact, it has only done the opposite.