Evolutionary psychology is the science that seeks to explain through universal mechanisms of behavior why humans act the way they do. Evolutionary psychology seeks to reconstruct problems that our ancestors faced in their primitive environments, and the problem-solving behaviors they created to meet those particular challenges. From these reconstructed problem-solving adaptations, the science then attempts to establish the common roots of our ancestral behavior, and how those common behavioral roots are manifested today in the widely scattered cultures of the planet.The ultimate goal is behavior aimed at the passing of one's genes into the next generation.
As defined by Tooby and Cosmides:"Evolutionary
psychology is simply psychology that is informed by the additional knowledge
that evolutionary biology has to offer, in the expectation that understanding
the process that designed the human mind will advance the discovery of
MORE DETAILED EXPLANATION:
At the core of evolutionary psychology is the belief that all humans on the planet have innate areas in their brains which have specific knowledge that help them adapt to local environments. These areas are highly specialized, and only activate when the information is needed. These areas, when activated, give the brain specific algorithmic (step by step) instructions that have evolved from our ancestral pasts to adapt to all situations that we now face as humans. Some scientists speculate that these areas are attachments to long-term memory areas, and assist in problem-solving.
These areas of the brain have a number of names:
The ability to find the precise locations of these algorithmic modules is still years away, but the general location of these areas has been culled from brain scans which locate neural activity, and from the study of behavioral dsyfunctions resulting from brain damage or other malfunctions.
Knowing how these areas work
in relation to the environment and the culture in which the human organism
finds itself are the other areas of research in which evolutionary psychology
shows the greatest promise. These spheres of research aim at configuring
behavior models based on primate studies, hunter-gatherer research, and
anthropological evidence into the best possible problem-solving probabilities
of our ancestral behavior patterns. It is from these studies that evolutionary
psychologists build behavior probabilities into our modern cultures and
show us why we do the things we do -- based on biology.
Biologists tell us that the DNA difference between humans and our chimpanzee cousins is only 1.4% -- that means we share 98.6% of our genome. This magnificent pen and ink reproduction by renowned Utah artist Gregory Frehner will astound you. Both species are linked together by DNA helixes in artistic interpretation. Available only at this location on the planet. Click on image above to go to my Amazon.com zShop listing for worry-free credit card shopping.
|For me, the reason that
evolutionary psychology is important is that, scientists and scholars alike
are finally all collaborating together to form a consensus on how the human
brain, and thus human emotions, have evolved. Once we know how such emotions
as prejudice, hate, and anger evolved, we, as humans, can begin to change
these negative behavior mechanisms. We do this by being self-aware of,
then controlling, the emotions that flow from our brain. It is this self-awareness
and self-control that makes us human. So you creationists have nothing
to fear from scientists who want to push humankind's creation timeline
back to include our primate cousins. We are separated from the animal within
us by our higher consciousness. We have demonstrated that we can control
our emotions and thus change our external behavior patterns. But we all
must acknowledge that we are still attached by the flesh to our ancestral
From an evolutionary timeline,
we don't have much time left before we begin to make deliberate genetic
mutations. There are three periods of evolution. The first
you are familiar with: Natural Selection. Here, hereditary defects
are weeded out without human consciousness. The second is Deliberate
Manipulation: the elimination of genetic defects through deliberate manipulation
of the genes. The third: Volitional Evolution: The deliberate mutation
of genetic structure through Gene Therapy. (God help us...please study
the history of Eugenics)
Even though I have difficulty with some points of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, I have no doubt of the effect his theory has had on our self-awareness. Darwin's theory of natural selection is monumental in the behavioral direction of this planet's future. Like Galileo before him, Darwin and his evolutionary theories have been, and are still, under attack by religious forces frightened by the thought of a world where their authority and their right to speak for God is diminished. I understand the fear that fuels their passion: they may lose influence. In particular, the fear of the diminution of the family and the chaos ensuing if such theories are accepted do not fall on dispassionate ears. But I also understand the importance of evolutionary psychology and the discoveries that this new science is bringing to our world in truly learning human behavior. Most human suffering, including the possibility of global conflict, occurs because of our ignorance of how behavior mechanisms evolved. This requires the acceptance of evolutionary theory. In 1609, when the church condemned Galileo to house arrest for life, the churchmen refused to look through Galileo's telescope and see the logic of his arguments. The church insisted that the poor found comfort in their God and refuge from the misery that surrounded them by remaining ignorant. Ordinary people, of course, found out about Galileo's theories anyway. The truth can not be suppressed forever.
In her autobiographical book, Reason for Hope, 1999, Ms. Goodall tells us the story of her first stuffed animal, Jubilee, a large, stuffed baby chimpanzee, created to commemorate the first chimpanzee to be born at the London Zoo. But it was the adventure stories of Tarzan the Ape Man, by Edward Rice Burrourghs that gave her the real inspiration to go to Africa and do everything she could to help the animals. There, in the days before television and Harry Potter books for young adults, she climbed up and sat in an old tree in her back yard and let her young mind soar while she read the adventure stories of the African hero. She even reveals to us a tinge of jealously that mixed with her fantasy life when Jane arrived on the scene in those African jungle adventures.
Her family, not having money for a higher education, and her skills at a foreign language poor, which meant not getting a scholarship, she was desperate as how she would get to Africa. On the advice of her mother that she become a secretary because, "...secretaries can work anywhere," Ms. Goodall set off for London at the age of 19 to learn secretarial skills. There, she spent most of her free time exploring art galleries, especially the Tate, and the Natural History Museum; she took full advantage of the city's cultural atmosphere. But it was not until she received a letter from an old school friend inviting her to visit the family farm in Africa that her life truly changed.
Saving up for two years by scrimping every penny, Ms. Goodall set off for the African continent at the age of 23. By a set of unique circumstances, Ms. Goodall was introduced to Richard Leaky who was so impressed by her knowledge of primates and natural history that Leakey offered her a job as his personal secretary on the spot. One suspects that Leaky had a larger plan behind hiring Goodall because Leaky believed that females were more patient and deliberate in their scientific observations. The reason I say that he may have a had a master plan is that Jane Goodall was just one of a triad of female observers organized and financed by Leaky. (Diane Fossey was sent to Rwanda to study gorilla, Birute Galdikas was sent to Indonesia to observe orangutans, and Goodall to Gombe National Park to observe chimpanzees -- they were called the "Leaky Girls.") Within two years, Leaky sent his protégé into the jungle to study the chimpanzees.
As Ms. Goodall became more familiar with the chimps she started giving them names; an unforgivable scientific practice at that time, as "animals" were supposed to be "numbers." This is done to keep a detached view of the subject and not skewer observations. But, not only did she give them names, but she saw in them vivid personalities and human-like emotions -- an even greater sin. This all came about because Ms. Goodall was not schooled in the educational science factories we call universities; her religious and moral upbringing lead to compassionate observations and saw the chimps as kindred spirits; she merely recorded what she saw and believed deeply in her observations as the truth. Science and all of humanity are better off today because of her "unscientific" observations. As Ms. Goodall observed and confirmed other primatologists observations, the chimps have behaviors similar to all the human cultures on the planet. Chimpanazees have been seen kissing, embracing, holding hands, patting each other on the back, swaggering, tickling, kicking, and fighting. But her greatest observation came one day when she saw David Graybread using a tool to extract termites from the soil. But of course, no one believed her until a National Geographic photographer captured the chimpanzees of Gombe using the tools she described.
Because of her love for nature
and animals; determination to seek her goal; patience in observations;
willingness to endure criticism from "degreed" colleagues for her findings;
courage in the face of snide remarks about being "The Geographic Covergirl."
But, most of all, because of her dedication to making this a safe planet
by educating the youth of our planet, I give praise to Ms. Goodall at this
web site. She has given all of us a reason to hope for a better future.
"What a FANTASTIC site you have. I'm daydreaming on the bus and the phrase "evolutionary psychology" pops into my head. I go on-line. The first site I choose (from Yahoo!) is yours. I don't need to go anywhere else. THIS NEVER HAPPENS TO ME! Usually I spend hours surfing, and by the time I find something, I'm tired. With you I can spend my time learning! Thank you." Marge Dolane.
Another case in point: The official journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society is called Evolution and Human Behavior. It was formerly: Ethology and Sociobiology. We are not getting less intelligent as a species, but that practical people are having more influence. I shall not listen to arguments of "dumbing down" the science.
I think that I may know the
reason for Wilson's reluctance. Every scientist wants credit
for his or her own theory formation or discovery, and this esteemed scientist
is no different. But one of the tests of a great scientist is the
humility in which he or she presents themselves to the world. So,
as far as I am concerned, Mr. Wilson, I praise you for your insight,
wisdom, and courage. And, at least at this web site, you are
the father of evolutionary psychology.
"Just as one can now flip open Gray's Anatomy to any page and find an intricately detailed depiction of some part of our evolved species-typical morphology, we anticipate that in 50 or 100 years one will be able to pick up an equivalent reference work for psychology and find in it detailed information-processing descriptions of the multitude of evolved species-typical adaptations of the human mind, including how they are mapped onto the corresponding neuroanatomy and how they are constructed by developmental programs." Ibid., p. 68
It is for this vision and
courage that I praise them in this section., William A. Spriggs, May 19,
Addendum: On October 22,
1996, Pope John Paul II, the spiritual leader of the planet's Roman Catholics,
in addressing the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting
in Rome, basically stated that the Roman Catholic Church does not have
any objection in the teaching of evolution to its children. He stated,
that as long as the spiritual soul of man emerged from the living building
blocks that God created, then the Church has no objection to the physical
voyage that man has traveled.
"(The Adapted Mind, Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L., and Tooby, J. (eds) 1992, Oxford University Press, New York)
Copyright 1997 State University of Campinas