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Introducing Evolutionary Psychology
Pub Year:
Read: 2017-11-16
Last Update: 2017-11-16

Five Sentence Abstract:

An evolutionary look at psychology assuming that the mind is made up of modules that have evolved independently and in different environments. This view follows the older behaviorist belief that actions were caused, not by the mind, but by environmental stimulation. A core of evolutionary psychology is to look at the mind's computer modules made for processing information. Some of these modules are supposed to lead to certain innately human abilities including language, physical attractiveness, and food preferences that seem to span all cultures. The conclusion is that our minds have evolved in an environment that is totally foreign to our current environment; we are essentially monkeys living in the fast lane.


While you shouldn't be put off to the picture-book styling as this really is a decent, albeit limited, introduction, it is annoying that there is no table of contents/chapters which make looking things up a little difficult. This can be forgiven since it is no reference book and will probably only be read once before moving onto more detailed books.

There are many interesting hypothesis that are backed by studies, but the fact that it is all predicated on evolution makes me uneasy. It is one thing to theorize about evolution of biological systems, but it is a whole other thing to speculate on the so-called modules of the mind on top of assumptions made as to the past environmental conditions when said modules may have emerged.

The Darwinian model, much like the Newtonian model, is too mechanistic. They attempt to understand the world in a strictly physical sense, but their usurping of God/religion is to simply replace one system of belief for another. What is the difference between a creation myth and the big bang? Further, this distillation seems to have removed religious constraints that have worked well to keep man "in check". The modern world stands as a testament to what happens when man elevates himself above a God he no longer believes in.

The book cedes that both nature and nurture play a role in the mind's development and then immediately posits that changes in the environment can lead to changes in behavior. It uses the cliché that Hitler's are made, not born. This part of the book reminds me of Cultural Patterns and Technical Change and leads circularly back to the likes of B.F. Skinner and Pavlov which are discarded earlier in the book. It feels like an excuse, not unlike how the Newtonian model was used to justify laissez-faire, to permit social manipulation as rational, scientific, and natural.

Initially seeing that the author hails from the London School of Economics plus the early emphasis on Darwin was concerning. As I progressed, the roster presented reads like a who's who of manipulators. Machiavelli, Hume, Galton, Darwin, Turing, and Chomsky to name but a few. It is shocking that there is no mention of a Huxley given the emphasis on Darwin (and Galton).

This is one of 3 books that is said to be inspirational to the movie The Matrix. The other 2 are Out of Control and Simulacra and Simulation.

Exceptional Excerpts:

The brain is hardware, the mind is software.

...possible to change most human behaviour.

to understand how environmental changes will alter the way people behave


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