Blog Post 3: Evolutionary Psychology

2 Commentsby   |  03.05.13  |  Student Posts

In class today while we were discussing the articles we read, I thought it was interesting that many of the authors addressed how evolutionary theory and psychology applied to “real life.” The author of the article I read, Joan Roughgarden, stated that “social behavior develops as individuals acquire experience with one another.” Later in the article, she criticized a theoretical biologist’s discussion of the evolutionary outcome of competition between “altruists” who interact with “selfish” individuals. This biologist, John Maynard Smith, believed that those traits were permanent characteristics, much like skin color or height. Personally, I do not really see the point in a study of characteristics that are ever-changing or circumstantial.

If all of the time spent studying the outcome of competition in “permanent” characteristics was focused on something that (I think) matters more, like research to cure cancer or ways of preventing malnutrition in third-world countries, the work and outcomes would be beneficial and have a lasting impact. I do believe that many of the theories and findings from evolutionary biology are significant. I think it is a stretch to ask evolutionary science to explain things like morality or spirituality when those features of human behavior exist and thrive without explanations. Why not put that time and energy and money into something that really matters and will change lives?


  1. Avia Gray
    8:04 pm, 03.06.13

    It can be really easy to focus on characteristics of people while studying evolution, and because of that, it can be easy to categorized individuals. That obviously can lead to things like genocide and abuse. But I agree with you in that if evolution were to count for anything it would be to help cure diseases or prevent malnutrition. But to explain a complex and spiritual human in such concrete, black-and-white terms is a contradiction in science.

  2. Tyler Lotz
    11:43 pm, 03.06.13

    I like your post, though i disagree with your author (much like i disagreed with mine) when he says that social behavior is purely learned by experience with others. Though it is surely a huge factor especially later in life, i think that many things are hardwired, such as expressions like smiling that cross all cultural boundaries. Is it not the job of evolutionary psychology to try to explain things like this with our dna and stuff, get with the program Joan Roughgarden.

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