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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Challenge to evolutionary psychology: What if the number of human ancestors is actually small?

Evolutionary psychology—the theory that human nature can best be understood by trying to guess the survival strategies that benefited human ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago (and are now governed by our genes)—burst on the scene in the 1990s. after the controversial failures of similar trends in psychology, Social Darwinism and sociobiology.

Evolutionary psychology is an effort to bring social sciences into line with a current interpretation of Darwinian evolution favored by, for example, Richard Dawkins , by reducing the complex vagaries and choices of current human behaviour to simple formulas based on comparisons with primate apes and speculations about human prehistory based on chance findings from genome maps.

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Another serious practical problem for evolutionary psychology is that the number of common human ancestors may actually be quite small. ...

Why is this a problem? Because evolutionary psychology is, in general, group psychology. If the basic evolutionary psychology thesis were sound, a group would respond to a given issue (selective baby-killing, polygamy) by making choices that affects the group's survival and reproduction. This response is alleged to be encoded in our genes, turning up later in our thoughts.

But if only a few human beings are actually ancestors, only a few unique and unpredictable individual responses matter. It is no use theorizing about how early humans in general might have reacted if the individual who chooses to go against the group becomes the ancestor. And we don't even know, for mosst purposes, whether a decision that went against the group played any role in that individual's becoming an ancestor.
Read more here.

If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

How my current co-authored book is coming along

Thanks to all those who wondered how "The Spiritual Brain" (Harper 2007) is coming along. It's going fine, but I'm currently working on the hardest chapter (for me). Hence my virtual (pun intended) absence from blogging. I will be happy to get back to blogging much more frequently in a few weeks.

Why is origin of life such a difficult problem?: A few considerations

The National Academy of Sciences identifies origin of life as an active research area that will soon yield key answers:

Of course, even if a living cell were to be made in the laboratory, it would not prove that nature followed the same pathway billions of years ago. But it is the job of science to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena. The study of the origin of life is a very active research area in which important progress is being made, although the consensus among scientists is that none of the current hypotheses has thus far been confirmed. The history of science shows that seemingly intractable problems like this one may become amenable to solution later, as a result of advances in theory, instrumentation, or the discovery of new facts.

But the telling phrase is "seemingly intractable problems like this one." "Seemingly" intractable or actually intractable? And in either case, why?

Now, it's fine with me if NAS members solve the problem tomorrow. BUT ... we need to be clear about one thing: It is perfectly possible that they will never solve it, not because it is some kind of forbidden knowledge, but simply because the relevant information is lost. In other words, it could be a cold case file with no new clues.

After all, most NAS members believe in a naturalistic materialist universe, so there is no reason to assume that the information about the origin of life was saved. In their own view, no intelligence created it or took the trouble to save it.

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Actually, scientists would be better to put their faith in intelligent design if they want to solve origin of life mysteries, because then they might reasonably believe that someone left them clues - in much the same way that Arthur Conan Doyle always left clues for his great detective Sherlock Holmes to find.

Read more here. (You may have to scroll down.)

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

The Pope using the term "intelligent design" to describe the Catholic view of origins, go here.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams attacked by Darwinist, hits back. Will he now cartoon on the subject?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. See also the ruling on tax funds. Note the line that the “free speech” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Christoph, Cardinal Schonbon is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.

World class chemist dissed at Catholic university because he sympathizes with intelligent design.
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