Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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NY Times: "Darwin Was Wrong" (About Dating)


It's stopped being fun to beat up on evolutionary psychology. Somehow it just feels unsportsmanlike, given that the "discipline" has come to be so widely rejected and mocked even among otherwise dependable Darwin defenders. See this New York Times article ("Darwin Was Wrong About Dating") that sounds the theme. Fewer and fewer in the business of studying evolution are inclined to accept Darwin's own confident view that human mating behavior can be explained in evolutionary terms.

But the fact that some gender differences can be manipulated, if not eliminated, by controlling for cultural norms suggests that the explanatory power of evolution can't sustain itself when applied to mating behavior. This wouldn't be the first time we've pushed these theories too far. How many stereotypical racial and ethnic differences, once declared evolutionarily determined under the banner of science, have been revealed instead as vestiges of power dynamics from earlier societies?


Perhaps these phenomena exist. Perhaps men do, over all, pursue more short-term mating. But given new research, continued rigid reliance on evolution as an explanation seems to risk elevating a limited guide to teleological status -- a way of thinking that scientists should abhor.

Doesn't this sound familiar? It's what we say about Darwinian theorizing as a whole, all the time. The phenomenon of natural selection surely exists but, "given new research," we see how it operates only at the margins of life and little more than that, offering a lens of very limited value for explaining how organisms came to be as they are. Evolutionists have "pushed this theory too far."

In the prime of evolutionary psychology, no one would have thought the day would come when anybody but an academic fringe rejected this field that was then held in such high esteem. Yet the day did come. Darwinian evolutionary thinking in general has already passed its high-water mark. Take heart.

Image: Paul Gauguin, "Three Tahitians."