Gottlieb makes several excellent points, describing the same major shortcomings of evolutionary psychology that critics and proponents alike have named many times before: frustratingly scant evidence of early humans’ intellect, the immense difficulty of objectively testing hypotheses about how early humans behaved, the allure of convenient just-so stories to explain the origins of various mental quirks and talents. Some of his points are less relevant, such as psychologists’ oft-lamented dependence on American and European college students as study subjects—this is a problem for all of psychology, not just evolutionary psychology. One of Gottlieb’s arguments stunned me—an argument so weak that it disintegrates when probed, like a flake of sandstone. “In theory, if you did manage to trace how the brain was shaped by natural selection, you might shed some light on how the mind works,” Gottlieb writes. “But you don’t have to know about the evolution of an organ in order to understand it.” Yes, you do.

Why We Need to Study the Brain’s Evolution in Order to Understand the Modern Mind  by Ferris Jabr


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