The Problem of Evolutionary Psychology

I tried to “do no harm,” tried to live without taking from anyone, without pushing anyone around, without hurting anybody. It hasn’t worked out – well, I mean, I survived pretty well, I’m almost sixty, it is theoretically possible, at least with the running head start of being male and white and let’s say “possessed of a certain low cunning” – it hasn’t worked out that no-one got hurt, or that anyone noticed my attempted passive sainthood. I’ve tried to write the details elsewhere, for today this is the point, not hurting anybody didn’t work out.

Through all my frustration and hurt about it, I have also been wondering why that would be and what I have determined is that you cannot evolve for a negative any more than you can prove one.

I’ve decided that we probably lack the genes to pay attention to things that don’t hurt, that what adaptations is an organism supposed to make to survive a fellow who was never going to hurt you? There may be some attraction there for some sexual selection, and perhaps some adaptation would be necessary for that to be an option – but people, men who offer no harm are not in any large majority, so these sorts of adaptive ideas, these selective forces if they exist, will be weak.

This basic one-sidedness of life, that peace and non-violence do not carry equal power in the world as their opposites, this must audit all of social science, and any social science must concern itself with the more powerful forces, pain, threat, and death, for the simple reason that these things exist, whereas, in scientific terms, as selective forces, or adaptations, or a real measurable thing in almost any way – peace and non-violence do not.

A popular school of thought has it that “nurture,” as a positive thing, a force to improve, or enhance has evaded psychological research for more than a hundred years, and of course this is why, they are trying to prove the negative, looking for an adaptation to a negative (meaning non-existent) stimulus.

Abuse and pain, those are real things, forces with objects and results. Psychology, the real kind, concerns itself with pain and abuse and adaptations to those things. Which brings me to paleopsychology, EP.

You know the old fashioned way of talking about each of our views of life, how we can compare Socrates’ and Kant’s “philosophies?” “ . . . than what is dreamt of in your philosophie,” like that, well, of course psychology is like that too, there is the general term, but we each have one also – and in my EP, all that matters is pain and abuse.

Game theory – this is not psychology – where is the pain? Where is the inner life? When you’re engaging in such basic arithmetic, this is sort of an end run around your inner life, you are doing the very opposite of psychology. Game theory is stripped down conflict, with any psychology carefully pared away.

Civilization, law and order, what we look like when we are “behaving,” this is not psychology – again, where is the inner life, where is pain? I mean, except as theory, threats, deterrents. Most EP sounds like boot camp, interested in everything except the interests of psychology. When that civilized, socially controlled ape they describe is behaving, building institutions, well fed and liberal, sure, the male-centric EP story of the usual sort has an explanation for that, I guess, we avoided the punishment, did the right thing – but in every generation when we succumb to his need for blood and war – you need actual psychology for that.

Because for as much as and as long as we’ve been “civilized,” we’ve been abused and abusing and prone to fits of world destroying rage.

Of course the overall, socially understood version of EP is toxic. That’s sort of a rule: name a thing as its exact opposite, this is how these toxins are made, call a primer on conflict, a version of the Art of War, “psychology.” OK.

I’ve been missing the lede, but the insight here, the part that brought me back to the computer after quite a lull, is that this basic one-sidedness of life, that the power is pretty much all on the dark side, this means that EP is never going to show us the way forward, that the road to peace is simply not in there. A serious look at it will identify the pain, the abuse, and where all that has brought us – a worthy goal, my goal, to be sure – but what it will tell us is what not to do.

And that seems to be the opposite of what the purveyors of EP are saying, isn’t it?

It’s almost like they’re just looking to justify something.

Ending these things always feels like I’m taking some easy way out, somehow, and maybe it’s true. This stuff hurts me, seeing my own nasty conclusions, it’s not so much dropping the mic as just running away from the sound of my own voice – hmmm, same as stuttering.

 

 

Jeff

January 28th., 2020

Part #2:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2020/01/29/the-problem-of-evolutionary-psychology-part-2/

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