by Gene Callahan
I’ve just been re-reading John Dupre’s wonderful take-down of evolutionary psychology, Human Nature and the Limits of Science. Now, Dupre never disputes the obvious truism that, say, human ethics or religion evolved. But he notes that this is remarkably uninformative, since everything humans do so evolved, including their ability to write papers on evolutionary psychology! As Dupre convincingly demonstrates, ‘evolutionary psychology… offers us mainly simplifications and banalities about human behaviour with little convincing illumination of how they came to be banal… In relation to the illumination of the real complexities of human nature, the [research] programme may be declared bankrupt.’
All very true and worth noting, but what I really loved is how hard Dupre made me laugh at times. For instance, in considering the often bizarre animal analogies to human behaviour employed by evolutionary psychologists, Dupre notes that Buss claims that human strategies for keeping a mate are very similar to those of insects, and then Buss offers, amongst his examples, what ‘sounds to [Dupre] distinctly unlikely as a human strategy, shedding their broken-off genitalia after copulation to seal off the reproductive opening of the female.’
Aaargh! If only I had thought of that one earlier!