An Evolutionary Psychologist's False Premise - Evolution News & Views

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An Evolutionary Psychologist's False Premise

Tom Bethell earlier had some fun reading Anthony Gottlieb's amusing article in The New Yorker, which in turn finds some of the unintentional humor in the largely bogus field of evolutionary psychology. Gottlieb takes as his news peg the publication of Professor David Barash's new book, Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature. Now, responding in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Barash claims to be delighted by the attention, but then goes on to deliver this rebuke aimed at Gottlieb:

Gottlieb takes a dim view, not so much of evolution per se, but of its ability to cast meaningful light on human behavior generally. Presumably, our reviewer -- who was evidently perceived by the ostensibly knowledgeable staff at The New Yorker to be competent to make such judgments -- isn't a die-hard creationist or "young Earther" (the pseudo-scientific equivalent of today's anti-Obama "birthers"), but rather someone from the educated world who maintains, à la the late Stephen Jay Gould, that for some unexplained reason, having produced the human body and brain, evolution by natural selection stopped there and remains somehow disconnected from human behavior.

The reality is otherwise, such that Gottlieb and his ilk are quite simply on the wrong side of history and of scientific truth: Just as the anatomy, physiology, embryology, molecular biology, paleontology, endocrinology, neurobiology, etc., of Homo sapiens are the results of evolution by natural selection, so is our psychology.

Notice how, even as he disavows the identification of Gottlieb with "die-hard creationism," he tries to blacken him with the term. Gottlieb may not be a "die-hard" about it, he implies, but Barash clearly intends to apply a touch or two of "creationist" taint. Professors are good at this sort of cat-fighting.

Yet Barash could have saved a lot of time and space and just summarized his article in these brief terms:

(P1) Darwin's theory explains every aspect of the human being.

(P2) The mind is an aspect of the human being.

(C) Therefore, Darwin's theory explains the mind.

It's a valid argument; but since the first premise is false, it's not a sound one.