Evolu­tion­ary Psychology

TagLast edit: 28 Oct 2020 0:01 UTC by Ruby

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:

Blog posts

Ex­ter­nal links

See also

The Psy­cholog­i­cal Diver­sity of Mankind

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

The Psy­cholog­i­cal Unity of Humankind

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

Prob­lems in evolu­tion­ary psy­chol­ogy

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

Ba­bies and Bun­nies: A Cau­tion About Evo-Psych

Alicorn22 Feb 2010 1:53 UTC
67 points
843 comments2 min readLW link

Ex­pect­ing Short In­fer­en­tial Distances

Eliezer Yudkowsky22 Oct 2007 23:42 UTC
195 points
104 comments3 min readLW link

Evolu­tion­ary Psychology

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

The Gift We Give To Tomorrow

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

In­stru­men­tal vs. Epistemic—A Bardic Perspective

MBlume25 Apr 2009 7:41 UTC
76 points
188 comments3 min readLW link

Could evolu­tion have se­lected for moral re­al­ism?

John_Maxwell27 Sep 2012 4:25 UTC
4 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
40 points
1 comment3 min readLW link

My Dat­ing Plan ala Ge­offrey Miller

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

He­donic asymmetries

paulfchristiano26 Jan 2020 2:10 UTC
84 points
17 comments2 min readLW link

Ends Don’t Jus­tify Means (Among Hu­mans)

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

Guilt: Another Gift No­body Wants

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

Spec­u­la­tive Evopsych, Ep. 1

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

An Espe­cially Ele­gant Evpsych Experiment

Eliezer Yudkowsky13 Feb 2009 14:58 UTC
45 points
40 comments4 min readLW link

De­tached Lever Fallacy

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

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

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

Trivers on Self-Deception

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

Why Sup­port the Un­der­dog?

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

Re­bel­ling Within Nature

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

The Evolu­tion­ary-Cog­ni­tive Boundary

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

Sym­pa­thetic Minds

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

Minds: An Introduction

Rob Bensinger11 Mar 2015 19:00 UTC
29 points
0 comments6 min readLW link

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

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

Shittests are ac­tu­ally good

snog toddgrass24 Sep 2020 17:20 UTC
−12 points
23 comments2 min readLW link

A study on depression

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

Fad­ing Novelty

lifelonglearner25 Jul 2018 21:36 UTC
24 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

Ra­tional vs. Scien­tific Ev-Psych

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