Title page for ETD etd-08012005-145413

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Suplizio, Jean
Author's Email Address suplizio@cox.net
URN etd-08012005-145413
Title Evolutionary Psychology: The Academic Debate
Degree PhD
Department Science and Technology Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hardcastle, Valerie Gray Committee Chair
Burian, Richard M. Committee Member
Collier, James H. Committee Member
Perini, Laura Committee Member
Reeves, Barbara J. Committee Member
  • Barbara King
  • George Lakoff
  • Mark Johnson
  • Annette Karmiloff-Smith
  • evolutionary psychology
  • Steven Pinker
  • development
Date of Defense 2005-07-28
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examines the academic debate that surrounds the new field called "Evolutionary Psychology." Evolutionary psychology has emerged as the most popular successor theory to human sociobiology. Its proponents search for evolved psychological mechanisms and emphasize universal features of the human mind. My thesis is that in order to flourish evolutionary psychologists must engage other researchers on equal terms -- something they have not been doing. To show this, I examine the stances of practitioners from three other social science fields whose claims have been shortchanged by evolutionary psychology: Barbara King in biological anthropology, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in empirical linguistics and Annette Karmiloff-Smith in developmental psychology. These researchers are also involved in cognitive science investigations that bear on evolutionary psychology's key claims about the mind and how it works.

Evolutionary psychologists make three key claims about the mind. The first (1) is that the mind is massively modular; the second (2) is that this massively modular mind has been shaped by the processes of natural selection over evolutionary time; and the third (3) is that it is adapted to the Pleistocene conditions of our past. Evolutionary psychologists seek to elevate these three claims to the status of meta-theoretical assumptions making them the starting place from which our deliberations about human cognition ought proceed. These claims would constitute the framework for a new paradigm in the ultimate sense. I argue that elevating these claims to such a status is not only premature, but also unwarranted on the available evidence. This result is justified by evidence produced outside evolutionary psychology by those disciplines from which evolutionary psychologists explicitly seek to distance themselves.

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