• Is 90% of Evo-Psych False?

    Last month, Richard Carrier made an extended argument that Evolutionary Psychology is 90% false. There is much wrongness to be found that article, not least the strawman caricature of the field as something very like total genetic determinism, that is, the idea that “we have been molded to a certain bygone environment, and that this explains everything about us.”

    The crux of the argument, though, lies in Carrier’s claim that Evo Psych will do no better than more traditional psychology at coming up with testable hypotheses which yield reproducible results.

    Evolutionary Psychology is probably at least twice as unreliable as psychology alone, because EvoPsych makes a double claim: not just that an effect exists, but that it was caused by evolution (and not even merely that, but usually it claims a specific scenario as to how evolution produced the effect, and why). That is what makes it “Evolutionary” Psychology and not just Psychology. We now know, mathematically and empirically, that 1 in 3 effects claimed as documented in psychology cannot be so claimed after all. That means we can expect the same in EvoPsych: only 1 in 3 of its claimed effects can be trusted to hold up under further scrutiny. But EvoPsych also makes claims about what caused that effect, highly specific claims at that, and notably those claims are almost never based in evidence.

    If your understanding of how science progresses is that earlier theories (e.g. Newtonian mechanics and universal gravitation) are eventually replaced by more detailed and fundamental theories which make more and better testable predictions under a wider range of conditions (e.g. General Relativity) then you may take his argument with a hefty pinch of skepticism. In doing so, you would not be alone. YouTube philosopher Gary Edwards has zeroed his intellectual artillery in on the problem:

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    Category: Uncategorized

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.