Sunday, 28 October 2012

The corpses of dead and discredited theories

One problem for evolutionary theorists interested in human behaviour is that the field is littered with the corpses of dead and discredited theories.

  • Social Darwinism - has now become a synonym for evolution-inspired racism and eugenics programs and supposedly-discredited unilinear evolutionary theories.
  • Sociobiology - both the memetics and cultural evolution were born in a revolution against Wilson's sociobiology - whose reduction of everything to genetics was half-baked.
  • Evolutionary psychology - this has turned out to be the study of human universals. That is a travesty of a genuine evolutionary study of human psychology.
  • Behaviourism - the study of behaviour, or so you might think. Alas, what went wrong?
The problem is that these theories have sensible-sounding names, which now can hardly be used, due to their pollution with the bad ideas from the past.

Evolutionary psychology should be the study of psychology from an evolutionary perspective - including the evolution of individually and socially learned ideas - instead of the current mess.

Social Darwinism should be the study of the evolution of societies from a Darwinian perspective - obviously an important field.

Sociobiology should be the study of social behaviour in biology - and not refer to Wilson's ideas on the topic, which didn't always make a lot of sense.

Behaviourism should be the study of behaviour. Alas, to most people it refers to a discredited theory today.

We can probably rescue these words from the dustbin of history - but only if we make an effort to start using them to mean what they ought to mean.

References

2 comments:

  1. "Social Darwinism - has now become a synonym for evolution-inspired racism and eugenics programs and supposedly-discredited unilinear evolutionary theories."

    "Social Darwinism should be the study of the evolution of societies from a Darwinian perspective - obviously an important field."


    How are the two different exactly? I'm obviously missing something. Well, I know I'm not. Its you that's missing something. The moronic idea that people evolved from monkeys carries with it an implicit racism. It leaves open the possibility that all races or ethnicities are not equal, don't have the same intellectual potential, etc. There is no way for social darwinism to avoid degenerating into racism, because darwinism at its core is racist. Darwin came up with it originally as a way to explain why the Negro was inferior in his estimation, namely that he was on a lower level of evolution from the great apes. There is no way evolution will ever completely rise above this, because it is the heart of the theory.

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  2. Anonymous, your comment is a pathetic waste of space :-(

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