Rex at Savage Minds – berries, pink things & evolution

Alex Golub, one of the prime movers at Savage Minds, posted a link to an ‘Evolutionary Psychology’ bingo card that’s worth a chuckle.

Original post here.

I enjoyed the bingo card because it is such a great condensation of the usual hackneyed bits that crop up in conversations involving ‘evolution’ and ‘psychology,’ often with people who have serious interest in and understanding of neither evolutionary theory nor psychology. I’m not surprised that untrained individuals subscribe to evolutionary psychology (‘women like men who are tall because they could see prey farther off in the grasslands…’). After all, people close to me (who will remain unnamed) believe that one must inherit every trait or characteristic, however minor, from some relative, even if they are only related at a distance (‘you must get your love of traveling from your father’s brother…’) and into forms of ethnic personality theory (‘Italians are so expressive; Latins are so passionate…’).

The point of criticizing these trite versions of evolutionary psychology, for me, is not to throw out baby, bath water, and basin, but to really expose when pernicious sloppy thinking is masquerading as ‘science,’ especially under the guise of psychology and evolution. For whatever reason — probably because they have a sheen of ‘naturalness’ and being above criticism — these rubrics have become touchstones for some of the most retrograde thinking about sexuality, gender relations, ‘race,’ and other issues. The only way to truly engage them is to offer better accounts of both evolution and human psychology.

So in the meantime, I’m printing out my bingo card for the next salvo from the evolutionary psychologists.

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Trained as a cultural anthropologist at the University of Chicago, I have gone on to do fieldwork in Brazil and the United States. I have written one book, Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art (Oxford, 2005). I have also co-authored and co-edited several, including, with Dr. Daniel Lende, The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology (MIT, 2012), and with Dr. Melissa Fisher, Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on the New Economy (Duke, 2006). My research interests include neuroanthropology, psychological anthropology, sport, dance, human rights, neuroscience, phenomenology, economic anthropology, and just about anything else that catches my attention.

One thought on “Rex at Savage Minds – berries, pink things & evolution

  1. This is awesome! I’ve started reading and learning on the topic with your article about the “innate” fear of snakes, and maybe it wasn’t good to start with this cause now I may be a bit biased towards EP. Now I’m taking a class in school and i’m curious if it will balance out my perspective. 🙂

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