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Evolutionary Psychology: A Review

6. The Future for Evolutionary Psychology

Book cover: The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction by Justin Garson

Despite its successes, Evolutionary Psychology continues to face a number of theoretical and experimental challenges. Much more work needs to be done to put this approach to the science of psychology on a firm footing. For example, functional analyses that have led to firm novel predictions are comparatively rare. Evolutionary Psychology's central tenet that the human brain consists of many domain specific computational circuits is also far from decided. The viability of the massive modularity thesis may have to wait many more years for the answer to be resolved by research in cognitive science.

The Evolutionary Psychology programme is up against some stiff rivals. Human behavioural ecologists investigate a diametrically opposed hypothesis; that of phenotypic plasticity. Natural selection, they propose, has given us a wide repertoire of possible behaviours to fit a diverse range of ecological and cultural environments.

Richard Dawkins proposed a different mechanism to explain our behavioural diversity. His memetics programme looks for and attempts to categorize the cultural corollary to the replicator for genetic biological (genes), which he labelled memes.

Proponents of gene–culture coevolution (also known as dual inheritance theory) argue that singular biological and cultural approaches to human evolution are both inadequate. They are unsatisfactory, they say, because they ignore the fact that human cultures affect their adaptive environments on the one hand and that humans' genetic makeup constrains the types of cultures they can create.

Evolutionary Psychology, I believe, has and will continue to make significant contributions to the way we think about the mind and human evolution. In the next few years, I hope we will see the integration of Evolutionary Psychology into the broader stream of evolutionary studies and continue to witness fruitful cross-fertilisations between the various research streams in biology and the cognitive sciences. Whether Evolutionary Psychologists will succeed in taking the bulk of scientists working within complementary disciplines on their journey, as they wish, or whether Evolutionary Psychology will end up in the dustbin of discarded scientific theories remains to be seen.

Copyright © 2015

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