Wishing Doesn’t Make It So
In honor of this utterly stupid article from Slate that called evolutionary psychology a pseudo-science, I thought I’d post the two most dangerous fallacies: Naturalistic and Moralistic.
The Naturalistic Fallacy is the tendency to think that because something is, it ought to be. The fallacy is that something being natural or part of human nature doesn’t make it right. The rage you’d get filled with thinking of your partner with someone else might be biologically influenced, but that doesn’t justify acting on it. Human morality doesn’t care if nature “allowed” something, only that it doesn’t approve of that behavior now.
The Moralistic Fallacy is the opposite–it says that since something is wrong, it couldn’t possibly be natural. Often it implies that these things are societal creations and “if we would all get along” they would go away. You might find it really sad that people go to war, but obfuscating the influence doesn’t change anything. People lie, cheat and steal everyday and have benefited from the behavior since the beginning of human history. If morality is to be more than words, it has to understand where the resistance comes from.
The Naturalistic Fallacy is a rationalization and the Moralistic is a delusion–both are stupid. And they both need to be avoided.
I’m really enjoying these short posts. Straight up, straight to the point, lesson learned.
I like what you have defined here, I find it interesting that its stated “both need to be avoided.”
NLP teaches that every human behaviour is due to the ultimate belief that something positive will come of it. In some cases may one of these behaviours infact be appropriate? although im stating this, I must agree I would prefer if the behaviours were avoided.
More are on the way
Evolutionary Psychology is easily proven to be a valid science. It’s a simple logical chain. Those of us studying psych know the role that biology has affecting our psychology. There are mounds of empirical evidence. And we know that our biology is affected by evolution. Thus, evolution will have an affect on our psychology. End of argument.
That said, hose angry blog posts you link to are crap, but there is a nugget of truth. A LOT of stuff that is called EvPsych is pseudo scientific bullshit with absolutely no evidence backing itself up. It’s often used as a lazy man’s shortcut for directly explaining psychological phenomenon that are often better explained by other factors. (Though, of course, those other factors ARE affected by evolution, giving it a more indirect role.)
The problem is many of the assertions by people professing to take an evpsych perspective are untestable hypotheses, which by definition makes them unscientific.
But those chicks are attacking actual scientific attempts to demonstrate evpsych ideas at work, calling them pseudo science. That’s flat out wrong. You can call them *bad* science all you want, but it’s still science.
Evolutionary Psychology makes a lot of sense to me, and I don’t doubt that it is science. However, some of these posters’ observations make sense (especially if you follow a few links back to this Crooked Timber post) – the researchers conduct and experiment and find that the data is counter to their expectations (their expectations formulated in an EP thought experiment), then smoothly explain it away using concepts in EP. Laymen such as myself scoff at it because it would make more sense to us to explain away using cultural influences or a bias in the experiment design or something, instead of insisting on an explanation based solely on Evolutionary Psychology. OR maybe the press just got the gist of the study completely wrong, the way they tend to do on much science reporting.
Using Popper’s definitions of pseudoscience as if Kuhn had never existed has always bugged me though, but I understand the need for brevity in explanations, and that much of the world has never read either philosopher, and Popper’s falsifiability criterion for science is still what many smart people believe to be the difference between science and pseudoscience.