chapter  11
22 Pages

Evolutionary Psychology and the Challenge of Adaptive Explanation

I (R. G.) often start my undergraduate lectures on evolutionary psychology with the following question, "Who thinks humans are animals?" After a few moments of reflection (and a bit of prompting from me that people are certainly not vegetables or minerals), most students agree that humans are indeed animals. I then ask, "How many people think humans are the product of evolution?" Typically around 80% of the class think humans are products of evolution. However, when I then ask, "Given that humans are products of evolution, how many of you think that human behavior can be explained in evolutionary terms?" only a few brave souls raise their hands. This ambivalence to evolution and evolutionary explanations is not restricted to Auckland undergraduates. Many biologists, who routinely explain all sorts of biochemical, morphological, and behavioral aspects of organismal diversity in evolutionary terms, balk at explaining human behavior and cognition in the same way (Ahouse & Berwick 1998; Gould, 1997; Lewontin, 1998). Coyne (2000) expresses this view with considerable vigor.