It’s high time we put the most enduring myths about human behavior to bed, and see the mind—and the world—as it is.
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I enjoyed this article overall, and I think that it touches on some very important features of the discussion on evolutionary psychology among the laity, about more than just sex. I do have some problems, though:
The assumption of a value judgment:
"These assumptions imply that if one is not a heterosexual, has no interest in sex, does not behave like the hypotheses predict, or is primarily interested in sexual activity that does not involve the possibility of a sperm and egg meeting up, he or she is doing something out of the evolutionary norm..."
Well, yes. Why not? The problem is not whether what is being implied corresponds to the facts, but that you seem to think that there is an implicit value judgment in the phrase "out of the evolutionary norm". Obviously behavior that limits or prohibits reproduction is "out of the evolutionary norm" because if it were the *norm*, it would result probable extinction. This isn't a controversial point. I myself am not heterosexual and don't plan to reproduce, and I have no problem with the idea that this is "outside of the evolutionary norm". It may exist due to evolutionary effects, but it's prima facie not a *norm* of any meaningful kind. So what?
Complaining about language that uses metaphor of agency:
Much of your article is this hobbyhorse ride that involves picking apart use of words that people are fond of using when talking about evolution. Unfortunately that steps on a particular pet peeve of mine. When people say things like, "My computer doesn't want to open this file," nobody writes articles in major publications asserting that folks believe their computers are sentient. When people say, "My car died," nobody asks them whether they plan to hold a funeral. Use of words like "for" and "try" is not evidence *in itself* that people don't understand evolution. Maybe they aren't interested in indulging linguistic prescriptivism, or are comfortable with metaphors. Perhaps you are right, but if you want to actually *show* that people, in fact, believe that evolution "tries" to do things "for" purposes, then you will need to do more than nitpick the use of language. It often surprises me that even the erudite and clearly reflective can so easily fall into attacks on the use of language rather than the actual ideas involved - a mistake my Philosophy 101 professor used to quietly shake her head at. Use of intentional language is simply a part of a chunking mechanism that allows us to deal with a concept at a higher level of abstraction, yes?
Aside from those objections, I loved the article, and especially liked the following:
"Evolutionary history tells us a lot about the general parameters of sexual activity; a bit about why sex feels the way it does; and maybe even a little about why we get turned on (or off) by something. But thinking simply in a model that relates sex to the likelihood of reproduction tells us very little about how individuals experience feelings, desires, and sexuality."
As an anthropologist and writer for PT, I'm sure you have a deep appreciation for the explanatory power of evolutionary psychology. As someone who has educated himself on the topic, it is nice to see an article that specifically refers to its limitations. Every pop psych and pseudoscience source latches on to very shaky explanations based on evo psych, and it is a disservice to the field, which does generate meaningful explanations about the species in general without the need to extend them to minutiae of everyday life.
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