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“Evolutionary Theory as Methodological Anesthesia: Methodological and Philosophical Lessons from “Evolutionary Psychology”” Dick Boyd (Lewis & Clark College and Cornell University)

Date: 3:30pm - 5:00pm PDT April 11, 2013 Location: JRHH 102

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JRHH 102

According to mainstream ‘evolutionary psychology’ evolutionary theory makes an important methodological contribution to human social psychology.  Plausible evolutionary scenarios regarding early human social behavior are said to provide a methodologically independent source of insights, identifying some psychological theories as those ‘predicted’ or otherwise especially supported by evolutionary theory.  In practice the theories so identified are reductionist or nativist theories which minimize the role of social structures and of learning in explaining human social behaviors.

In fact, there is significant methodological independence between evolutionary scenarios and psychological theories but that independence guarantees that such scenarios do not favor reductionist or nativist theories over theories that emphasize the role of learning and of social structures (or vice versa).  So, in practice, appeals to evolutionary theory function as a sort of methodological anesthesia, directing psychologists’ attention away from scientifically important alternatives to reductionist or nativist theories.


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Claire Kodachi, Administrative Coordinator, Philosophy Department.  503-768-7450
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