Evolutionary Psychology – Again?

Evolutionary psychology just is what happens to us.

“Evolutionary Psychology” as a self-identified political “ought” interpretation of evolutionary reality and the political reaction to brand it pejoratively as “EvoPsych” are just that – identitarian political movements, not to be confused with reality. I said as much just in the title of the first long piece I ever wrote in this space in 2005.

“It (Really) IS Evolutionary Psychology, Stupid”

As Kevin Mitchell has already explained in the previous 5 minutes (below), there is no way to address complex self-adaptive systems like humanity from anything other than an evolutionary perspective. Dan Dennett and I would agree wholeheartedly. What matters is the quality of explanations, not the fact that they are evolutionary and psychological, scientific or philosophical. Do not pass go.

Quite a tough interview to listen to thanks to the skeptical prejudices of Matt Brown and particularly Chris Kavanagh and the extra 5 minutes of inane chatter before they get going on the 10 minute longer audio version. As ever I admire Kevin’s patience and clarity.

Listen to Kevin Mitchell if you can.


Post Notes – rough notes from the 2 hours!

Appropriate – ie “right” – levels of description / abstraction. (Exactly, Sean Carroll is wrong in suggesting these are convenient fictions – “Poetic Naturalism” – and that reality is just physics.)

The story, quite rightly, gets metaphysical. Much more than epiphenomenal too – really is two-way / multi-way causation.

Determinism is wrong full stop (even within physics, classical as well as quantum / relativistic).

It’s informational!!!! – Present states under-determine future states. Constraint is creative of future states. Meaning and purpose, even in “simple” living systems.

“If” we wind the clock back … Jeez … is ONLY a thought experiment …. not even a possibility unless you pre-presume determinism. Jeez.
Drives me “bananas” too Kevin. (Disagree – again – with Kevin’s interpretation of Dennett’s “incoherent” compatibilism in the Caruso dialogue, but no matter.) In the end it’s about quality of explanation – we agree again.

Like Sun Tzu’s art of war – we don’t need to know the locations of every atom in the universe – to fight the battle – not even ever piece of flora and fauna on the battlefield.

[More inane prejudice – against Jordan Peterson – oh how we laughed. Proper dynamic balance – integrated thinking – between the spiritualists (Peterson) and the illusionists (Harris), in terms of self and free-will.] Well done again Kevin. “Systems can be Selves” – pattern persistence through time.

Jeez – we have to debunk Libet misinterpretations again – we have many-layered adaptive / supervisory / permissory systems.  Readiness potentials / Free-wont, etc. How hard can it be? “Let’s put the subjectivity aside!” Ha! Readiness doesn’t equal commitment to act. It’s the patterns, not the low level details. Much more “holistic” – Yay! (It’s mostly sub-conscious, but it’s all the self. Some of the things we are “thinking” subconsciously make us aware as feelings before conscious thoughts) Determinism by definition rules itself out of conscious self. Shannon entropy. [Maps of Meaning – oh how we laughed, again.] Biology runs on meaning and sense-making. We’re only interested in differences, borders, gradients, edges – patterns / topology.

Neuronal interconnections are non-linear / non-binary, weighted, proportional in number and intensity. Cognition is what it’s doing, that’s what it is, not an epiphenomenon. Perception is active – monitoring, comparing, inferring.

Consciousness as feeling. Hofstadter as a strange loop, thinking about thoughts. Sufficient levels (requisite variety) …. confidence is a feeling, before or after we might model it as a calculation …

[Nothing new under the sun. This is all such well established and understood stuff already. See Mark Solms. Onwards and upwards.]


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.