Just so stories and inference to the best explanation in evolutionary psychology

Minds and Machines 6 (4):525-540 (1996)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Evolutionary psychology is a science in the making, working toward the goal of showing how psychological adaptation underlies much human behavior. The knee-jerk reaction that sociobiology is unscientific because it tells just-so stories has become a common charge against evolutionary psychology as well. My main positive thesis is that inference to the best explanation is a proper method for evolutionary analyses, and it supplies a new perspective on the issues raised in Schlinger's (1996) just-so story critique. My main negative thesis is that, like many nonevolutionist critics, Schlinger's objections arise from misunderstandings of the evolutionary approach.Evolutionary psychology has progressed beyond telling just-so stories. It has found a host of ingenious special techniques to test hypotheses about the adaptive significance and proximate mechanisms of behavior. Naturalistic data using the comparative method combined with controlled tests using statistical analyses of data provide good evidence for a variety of hypotheses about behavioral control mechanisms — whether in nonhumans or in humans. For instance, the work of Gangestad and Thornhill on evolved mate preferences and fluctuating asymmetry of body type (FA) is a model of success. As the quantity and quality of evidence increase, we are entitled not just to regard such evolutionary hypotheses as preferable, but also as true. Such studies combine to show that the best explanation of the psychic unity of humankind — common patterns across societies, history, and cultures exposed by evolutionists — is the gendered, adapted, evolved species-typical design of the mind.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 94,593

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-01-28

Downloads
127 (#144,133)

6 months
10 (#397,728)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Religion as an Evolutionary Byproduct: A Critique of the Standard Model.Russell Powell & Steve Clarke - 2012 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (3):457-486.
Adaptationism.Steven Hecht Orzack - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Constructive Empiricism: Normative or Descriptive?Moti Mizrahi - 2014 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 22 (4):604-616.
How to pursue the adaptationist program in psychology.Russil Durrant & Brian D. Haig - 2001 - Philosophical Psychology 14 (4):357 – 380.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Nature.Philip Kitcher & J. H. Fetzer - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (3):389-392.
The Mismeasure of Man.Stephen Jay Gould - 1983 - Ethics 94 (1):153-155.

View all 7 references / Add more references