Brute Reason

A collection of thoughts about psychology, social justice, and anything else I give a shit about.

Topics: feminism / psychology / lgbtq / sex / politics / abortion / health / mental illness / language / depression / sexism / sexual assault / fashion / racism / education / social justice

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I've found myself wondering some about 'evolutionary psychology', and 'evolution' on the whole; how evolutionary psychology is popularly accepted as one-in-the-same with evolution, either interchangeably used to 'reason' sexist behaviour and anti-feminism. I question evolutionary psychology most particularly for its dehumanization of primitive females (related to the m-f 'survivalist' and procreation dynamic), and reliance on theory, on pseudo-science, presented as, simply, science (e.g.



[cont] developments of gender, gender expression, and gender roles being gene-based). I would like to hear of your opinion concerning such all. What are your thoughts on gender; certainly its expression is social construct, but what does this say for its legitimacy, or its worth of being pandered to (so to speak)?

That’s a lot of questions all in one and I’m not actually entirely sure what you’re asking, sorry!

I (obviously) believe that evolution is real and shaped our physical bodies, including the brain. Evolutionary psychology is not “wrong” in and of itself; it makes sense that humans with the most adaptive mental traits would survive and/or have better luck finding mates and reproducing. Gender is a complex trait that we don’t understand very well, and I take the view that gender is shaped by a myriad of different influences, including genetics, the prenatal environment, hormonal variations, parenting, other forms of socialization (i.e. influences from other children and adults), culture (including the media, advertising, local social norms, etc.), and individual personality traits (which can determine how people respond to all of the above).

I don’t think it’s possible to say exactly which combination of the above causes given gendered traits or identities, and I don’t think it’s necessarily urgent or necessary to answer that question. What’s important is avoiding single-cause explanations (such as “it’s all genes” or “it’s all socialization”). Maybe someday we’ll have new technology and research methods that is able to determine what exactly it is, but for now, we don’t.

If I may interject? Evolution only predisposes humans when it comes to behavior. It in no way shapes our fate.

Fate, ethics, and philosophy are a lot more useful as angles to consider things like social justice, and in this case, feminism.

I think as a biologist I look very differently at evo-psych/behavioral bio when it comes to other animals versus humans.

With a certain species of cuttlefish, for example, males who are born with runt-sized bodies have a behavioral adaptation, one clearly evolved, where they use social cues to fool females and males into thinking that they are also female. These faux-female cuttlefish then can get closer to the females so that they can engage in sex.

Fascinating, isn’t it? And that’s it. It’s fascinating. Full stop. 

But when it comes to humans, you can’t just stop at saying, “due to this anthropological evidence, men were sexist in 2000 B.C., and so were Australopithecus 4 million years ago, and so are other primates currently bearing the closest to our genetic line, and therefore so are we AND SO EVERYTHING IS OK, full stop.”

This is still interesting no doubt, but we must also take the next step and say “is this correct by modern standards of ethics? should we work to change it?” and the answer should be a resounding NO IT ISN’T, YES LET’S CHANGE IT.

I’ve always agreed with evo-psych up to the point where it is used to JUSTIFY anything, and then I’m quaintly puzzled.

We also evolved to die at the age of 40, cheating is a sexually beneficial paradigm from an evolutionary perspective, and quite honestly if we let nature run its course Polio and HIV would be doing much better jobs of population control than any war or birth policies. Clearly encouraging just these three things in the modern world would be considered an act of war against mankind.

Evolutionary psychology contributes only to the discussion of how we should act if we all played zero-sum games where creating viable offspring was victory and nothing else mattered. We don’t, so it doesn’t contribute as much as some people seem to want it to.

Great points all. The book The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt refers to biological predispositions as the “first draft” of the mind: it’s there, but it’ll be revised and rewritten by environment and experience.

  1. shinoteki reblogged this from brutereason
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  7. invite-me-to-your-memories reblogged this from brutereason and added:
    nitpick: we didn’t evolve to die at 40. The average lifespan was 40 before a lot of modern medicine and sanitation, but...
  8. brutereason reblogged this from antinahottub and added:
    Great points all. The book The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt refers to biological predispositions as the “first...
  9. antinahottub reblogged this from brutereason and added:
    If I may interject? Evolution only predisposes humans when it comes to behavior. It in no way shapes our fate. Fate,...
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