Bioethics Blogs

Evolutionary psychology and multidisciplinary challenges

Evolutionary Psychology has recently gained some public attention in Finland, as the University of Turku has announced that it will establish the discipline as a permanent study module from the beginning of autumn 2014. University of Turku reports itself to be among the first universities in Europe to provide studies in this discipline[1].

Evolutionary psychology (EP) is a debated discipline, and its institutionalisation adds some weight to the debate. A thorough discussion of its “pros and cons” are beyond this entry – instead, I am interested on the manner in which this relatively young and multidisciplinary discipline is debated.

Most debaters seem to have a strong opinion about EP. It can be seen as the Grand Theory answering all the questions of humanity, or as pseudoscience without slightest scientific background. Obviously, none of the extremist positions is sensible.

SOME STRAINS IN THE DEBATE

The research target in EP is how evolution and natural selection has affected human mind. As explained in a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, EP relies much on explaining human behaviour “in terms of underlying psychological mechanisms that are adaptations for solving a particular set of problems that humans faced at one time in our ancestry.” The methodological tools of EP for testing hypotheses are mostly from psychology. Thus, the project is to explain human behaviour in terms of evolutionary concepts.

EP’s critique comes from many directions. A well noted stream of the debate is one between philosophers of biology and evolutionary psychologists, as the SEP-article  reports. The research tradition has been accused of having, for example, too much enthusiasm for adaptationism, untenable reductionism, and a simplified and vague conception of fitness.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.