Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet



What’s Wrong with (Standard) Evolutionary Psychology?

Göran Sonesson (Centre for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University)

There are no doubt members of CCS who know more about evolutionary psychology than I do. My only claim to originality is the outside stance from which I have considered this speciality. Instead of looking at the familiar popular books by Dawkins, Wilson, Pinker, and others, I have started out from common textbooks used by those who study the matter at the university. Standard evolutionary psychology in this sense is based on the idea of the ”selfish gene”, ”inclusive fitness”, etc. My basic criticism is that evolutionary psychology depends on gratuitous postulates, which are difficult to make sense of in scientific terms. I will also consider some contributions to evolutionary psychology of a less mainstream type, Sober & Wilson (1998), who claim that selection takes place at the level of groups as well as at lower levels, making altruism into a winner in the fitness game, and Richerson & Boyd (2005), who, starting out from the idea of group selection, suggest that biological and cultural evolution may have influenced each other, and that cultural evolution follows in part the same laws as biological evolution, but does not apply to anything comparable to the genes. This seems a useful lead to follow for those of us who are interested in understanding cultural evolution.