Evolu­tion­ary Psychology

TagLast edit: 8 Feb 2021 7:45 UTC by Yoav Ravid

Evolution, the cause of the diversity of biological life on Earth, does not work like humans do, and does not design things the way a human engineer would. This blind idiot god is also the source and patterner of human beings. “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” said Theodosius Dobzhansky. Humans brains are also biology, and nothing about our thinking makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Consider, for example, the following tale:

A man and a woman meet in a bar. The man is attracted to her clear complexion, which would have been fertility cues in the ancestral environment, but which in this case result from makeup and a bra. This does not bother the man; he just likes the way she looks. His clear-complexion-detecting neural circuitry does not know that its purpose is to detect fertility, any more than the atoms in his hand contain tiny little XML tags reading “<purpose>pick things up</​purpose>”. The woman is attracted to his confident smile and firm manner, cues to high status, which in the ancestral environment would have signified the ability to provide resources for children. She plans to use birth control, but her confident-smile-detectors don’t know this any more than a toaster knows its designer intended it to make toast. She’s not concerned philosophically with the meaning of this rebellion, because her brain is a creationist and denies vehemently that evolution exists. He’s not concerned philosophically with the meaning of this rebellion, because he just wants to get laid. They go to a hotel, and undress. He puts on a condom, because he doesn’t want kids, just the dopamine-noradrenaline rush of sex, which reliably produced offspring 50,000 years ago when it was an invariant feature of the ancestral environment that condoms did not exist. They have sex, and shower, and go their separate ways. The main objective consequence is to keep the bar and the hotel and condom-manufacturer in business; which was not the cognitive purpose in their minds, and has virtually nothing to do with the key statistical regularities of reproduction 50,000 years ago which explain how they got the genes that built their brains that executed all this behavior.

This only makes sense in the light of evolution as a designer—that we are poorly optimized to reproduce by a blind and unforesightful god.

The idea of evolution as the idiot designer of humans—that our brains are not consistently well-designed—is a key element of many of the explanations of human errors that appear on this website.

Some of the key ideas of evolutionary psychology are these:

External links

See also

An Espe­cially Ele­gant Evpsych Experiment

Eliezer Yudkowsky13 Feb 2009 14:58 UTC
61 points
41 comments4 min readLW link

Cyn­i­cism in Ev-Psych (and Econ?)

Eliezer Yudkowsky11 Feb 2009 15:06 UTC
26 points
39 comments4 min readLW link

The Psy­cholog­i­cal Diver­sity of Mankind

Kaj_Sotala9 May 2010 5:53 UTC
122 points
162 comments7 min readLW link

The Psy­cholog­i­cal Unity of Humankind

Eliezer Yudkowsky24 Jun 2008 7:12 UTC
42 points
21 comments4 min readLW link

Evolu­tion­ary Psychology

Eliezer Yudkowsky11 Nov 2007 20:41 UTC
76 points
40 comments5 min readLW link

Prob­lems in evolu­tion­ary psy­chol­ogy

Kaj_Sotala13 Aug 2010 18:57 UTC
78 points
102 comments8 min readLW link

Ba­bies and Bun­nies: A Cau­tion About Evo-Psych

Alicorn22 Feb 2010 1:53 UTC
80 points
844 comments2 min readLW link

Ex­pect­ing Short In­fer­en­tial Distances

Eliezer Yudkowsky22 Oct 2007 23:42 UTC
216 points
106 comments3 min readLW link

The Gift We Give To Tomorrow

Eliezer Yudkowsky17 Jul 2008 6:07 UTC
79 points
99 comments8 min readLW link

In­stru­men­tal vs. Epistemic—A Bardic Perspective

MBlume25 Apr 2009 7:41 UTC
83 points
189 comments3 min readLW link

Could evolu­tion have se­lected for moral re­al­ism?

John_Maxwell27 Sep 2012 4:25 UTC
7 points
53 comments3 min readLW link

At­ten­tion to snakes not fear of snakes: evolu­tion en­cod­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal knowl­edge in periph­eral systems

Kaj_Sotala2 Oct 2020 11:50 UTC
39 points
1 comment3 min readLW link

Ra­tional vs. Scien­tific Ev-Psych

Eliezer Yudkowsky4 Jan 2008 7:01 UTC
23 points
49 comments3 min readLW link

Would Your Real Prefer­ences Please Stand Up?

Scott Alexander8 Aug 2009 22:57 UTC
59 points
132 comments4 min readLW link

My Dat­ing Plan ala Ge­offrey Miller

snog toddgrass17 Jul 2020 4:52 UTC
2 points
57 comments3 min readLW link

He­donic asymmetries

paulfchristiano26 Jan 2020 2:10 UTC
89 points
22 comments2 min readLW link

Ends Don’t Jus­tify Means (Among Hu­mans)

Eliezer Yudkowsky14 Oct 2008 21:00 UTC
94 points
94 comments4 min readLW link

Guilt: Another Gift No­body Wants

Scott Alexander31 Mar 2011 0:27 UTC
93 points
103 comments8 min readLW link

Spec­u­la­tive Evopsych, Ep. 1

Optimization Process22 Nov 2018 19:00 UTC
40 points
9 comments1 min readLW link

De­tached Lever Fallacy

Eliezer Yudkowsky31 Jul 2008 18:57 UTC
50 points
40 comments7 min readLW link

Rea­son­ing isn’t about logic (it’s about ar­gu­ing)

Morendil14 Mar 2010 4:42 UTC
65 points
31 comments3 min readLW link

Trivers on Self-Deception

Scott Alexander12 Jul 2011 21:04 UTC
54 points
25 comments4 min readLW link

Why Sup­port the Un­der­dog?

Scott Alexander5 Apr 2009 0:01 UTC
40 points
102 comments3 min readLW link

Re­bel­ling Within Nature

Eliezer Yudkowsky13 Jul 2008 12:32 UTC
35 points
37 comments8 min readLW link

The Evolu­tion­ary-Cog­ni­tive Boundary

Eliezer Yudkowsky12 Feb 2009 16:44 UTC
45 points
29 comments3 min readLW link

Sym­pa­thetic Minds

Eliezer Yudkowsky19 Jan 2009 9:31 UTC
43 points
27 comments5 min readLW link

Minds: An Introduction

Rob Bensinger11 Mar 2015 19:00 UTC
32 points
1 comment6 min readLW link

Is That Your True Re­jec­tion? by Eliezer Yud­kowsky @ Cato Unbound

XiXiDu7 Sep 2011 18:27 UTC
44 points
83 comments1 min readLW link

Shittests are ac­tu­ally good

snog toddgrass24 Sep 2020 17:20 UTC
−11 points
23 comments2 min readLW link

A study on depression

vlad.proex13 Oct 2020 15:43 UTC
21 points
1 comment9 min readLW link

Fad­ing Novelty

lifelonglearner25 Jul 2018 21:36 UTC
21 points
2 comments6 min readLW link

Ac­cel­er­ate with­out hu­man­ity: Sum­mary of Nick Land’s philosophy

Yuxi_Liu16 Jun 2019 3:22 UTC
25 points
24 comments12 min readLW link

Eth­i­cal Inhibitions

Eliezer Yudkowsky19 Oct 2008 20:44 UTC
26 points
62 comments5 min readLW link

The Wire ver­sus Evolu­tion­ary Psychology

MrShaggy25 May 2009 5:21 UTC
18 points
19 comments1 min readLW link

Protein Re­in­force­ment and DNA Consequentialism

Eliezer Yudkowsky13 Nov 2007 1:34 UTC
48 points
20 comments4 min readLW link

Thou Art Godshatter

Eliezer Yudkowsky13 Nov 2007 19:38 UTC
126 points
75 comments5 min readLW link

A Failed Just-So Story

Eliezer Yudkowsky5 Jan 2008 6:35 UTC
17 points
49 comments2 min readLW link

Com­pro­mis­ing with Compulsion

matejsuchy25 Feb 2021 16:43 UTC
4 points
1 comment8 min readLW link
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