Evolution and psychology

Discussion in 'Creation vs. Evolution' started by Helen, Jul 27, 2003.

  1. Helen

    Helen
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    It's getting a little weird, folks. I know all evolutionists do not agree with this sort of thing, but for the purposes of information, here it is. I have bolded a section which has to do with another thread here: what we lost -- in terms of the acquisition of intelligence. I bolded it here because I am too lazy to transfer that section to the other thread and link it there, too.... :D

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    THE NEW YORK TIMES
    July 27, 2003

    Prime Numbers: What Science and Crime Have in Common
    By NICHOLAS WADE

    When Julius Caesar was touring the Spanish city of Cadiz in his early 30's, the ancient Roman biographer Suetonius reports, he came across a statue of Alexander the Great and wept beside it. Alexander at the same age had conquered the known world, while Caesar was just a minor Roman official, a source of severe chagrin to the ambitious future autocrat.

    It must be almost equally discouraging for scientists to see the graph that plots the age at which eminent male scientists make their big discoveries. It peaks at age 30 and then plummets, giving precious little time after one's hard-earned Ph.D. to get that invitation from the Nobel prize committee. The productivity of jazz musicians and painters is also highest in their mid-30's. And it's not just creativity that attains its zenith early in the male career. Crime, too, follows just the same parabolic curve.

    Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics who has studied these patterns of male achievement, believes he has the explanation. Young men in any profession are driven to seek wealth and prestige because these attributes are attractive to women. Once men's urges to start a family have been satisfied, the wellsprings of productivity, whether in science, art or crime, run dry, Dr. Kanazawa suggests.

    In support of his thesis, published in the current Journal of Research in Personality, he notes that marriage seems to have a quenching effect on both creativity and crime. Scientists who remain unmarried, he says, reached their peak of productivity at age 40, much later than the wedded sort. Criminals, too, retain their productivity much longer if unwed but tend to hang up their crowbars after marriage. "Both crime and genius are manifestations of young men's competitive desires to gain access to women's reproductive resources," he concludes.

    Dr. David M. Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, said he agreed with the general idea that scientific productivity, writing and crime are all activities driven by men's pursuit of wealth and status. But Dr. Kanazawa's thesis, in attributing everything to a switching on and off of some male competitive drive, was a "wild oversimplification." For one thing, men need to command resources after marriage as well as before, or they will find themselves divorced. Indeed, income in the United States peaks around age 55 for men, Dr. Buss said.

    Evolutionary psychology is the attempt to relate human behaviors to the purposes for which they evolved. Since evolution's criterion for success is getting as many genes as possible into the next generation, it is reasonable to seek to understand human behavior in terms of reproductive advantage.

    Dr. Buss has shown that women in many different cultures are attracted to men with money and prestige. "Scientific and artistic endeavors are male attempts to compete for status and resources, although I don't think men conceptualize it that way," he said. Evolution has built in a drive for male competitiveness and status-seeking because it is attractive to women; there's no need for the drive to be conscious.

    In his recent book, "The Mating Mind," Dr. Geoffrey Miller argues that intelligence and creativity are the product not of natural selection, the struggle for survival, but of sexual selection, the struggle for reproductive advantage. The peacock's tail, a flamboyant example of sexual selection, is a costly encumbrance of no help at all to physical survival, but of great value in seducing peahens.

    Sexual selection tends to work much faster than natural selection and has a tendency toward weird excess because of a runaway reinforcing process ‹ the peahens, who favor long tails, and the peacocks, who have them, both have more progeny, so in the next generation even longer tails are de rigeur.

    Dr. Miller, an evolutionary psychologist, , sees human intelligence as the weirdest excess of all. We're far smarter than was necessary for just surviving in the savannah, he says, and our close cousins the great apes never needed to develop our kind of intelligence. Therefore intelligence and creativity must be the product of sexual selection: women preferred smarter men, the better singers and dancers and spell-binders, and vice versa.

    If Caesar had only known that his desire to emulate Alexander ‹ his spectacular conquest of Gaul, his renowned oratory, his elegant military histories, his provident reform of the calendar ‹ stemmed from an unconscious drive to bed more women, would he not have wept all the more?

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
     
  2. The Galatian

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    Well, in Caesar's case, it apparently would have been "men and women", but I see the point.

    But I expect that it's an oversimplification. Different personality types have different motivations. NTs, (my own) just want to know. That's good enough reason for them.
     
  3. mdkluge

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    Galatian wrote:
    More likely "boys and women".

    I can't say that the ideas are wierd, but the modern manifestation seems to be wrong. Creativity (now) peaks at about 30, but that is well beyond the age in most cultures (including our own) by which a typical man more or less settles down with a single woman in at least a quasi-monogamous relationship. Are women attracted to prospective success rather than actual success? Even worse, actual success is often recognized only years after it has occurred. What good is that for attracting mates?

    That said, the reason(s) for evolution of intelligence is(are) obviously appropriate topics of scientific inquiry. I don't know how it happened. I would offer one modest suggestion, however. It is stated in the article that we modern humans are more intelligent than we need to be to survive in the climates where we evolved. Really? Presumably a certain limited number of genes are responsible for the genetic component of our advantage in intelligence over our fellow primates. If some of those were removed, would we still be able to survive, and if so, still outcompete our fellow primates? Could there not be just a single gene which provides us with both the ability to out compete our competitors in those climates where we evolved, but at the same time is responsible for much of our intelligence? The point is that if there really is some "excess" we should look for it at the genotypic, rather than the phenotypic level. (Just a thought.)
     
  4. NeilUnreal

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    My day job involves designing and building artificial intelligence systems, and I don't think any current paradigm has a corner on defining intelligence. We can't even say whether intelligence creates self-awareness, self-awareness creates intelligence, or whether they're aspects of the same phenomenon. (Though the latter is probably close to a consensus conjecture.) In either a scientific or a theological sense, I don't think we have strong evidence one way or the other about whether self-awareness is a materialistic phenomenon*.

    I conjecture that if intelligence is a materialistic phenomenon, we will find that is controlled by surprisingly few genes. The nature of intelligence seems to be constructive and analogical, so it may only take a few general purpose building blocks to bootstrap intelligence.

    We may never know. We do know more than we did 20 years ago, and we know more every day. We just can't say whether we're 90% of the way towards understanding intelligence or 1% of the way. In part intelligence research is like doing research in quantum physics: we're using clumsy tools to recursively examine the tools themselves.

    By extension, the study of evolutionary psychology is still at the phenomenological stage. We're like the blind philosophers examining the elephant -- we know the rough boundaries, we know isolated characteristics, but there's a lot of arguing between here and a general theory.

    -Neil

    *Something which is perfectly permissible from a Christian viewpoint, unless one assumes that Christianity and Hellenistic Dualism are inseparable.

    My own view is that spirit is immanent in the material world. I don't find a materialistic explanation of conciousness any more theologically threatening than a materialistic explanation of muscles, cells, or chemical reactions. Natural intelligence / supernatural intelligence -- I'm happy either way and willing to follow the evidence. [​IMG]
     
  5. mdkluge

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    I remember from my undergraduate days a Catholic priest (who was also a physics professor) considering the question of a soul arising from some computer. He suggested that if we found a seemingly inteligent and sentient comuter we should ask it whether or not it thought it had a soul. The expected response was that some would say yes and others no--just like humans. I think he viewed this as a necessary, rather than sufficient, property of sentient computers since the desired response could be easily programmed.

    I've considered his remarks through the years. I don't know if they have merrit, but it may be a profound feature of our sentience that it is not only aware of itself, but vaguely aware of the possibility that it is azware of something deeper.
     
  6. The Galatian

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    Pope John Paul II asserts that a soul is not "a mere epiphenomenon" of a nervous system.

    So I guess the answer about whether or not a computer might have a soul would be "depends on what God wanted to do". Assuming you think the Pope knows for sure.
     
  7. Helen

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    That assumption is badly misplaced.
     
  8. mdkluge

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    Helen wrote:
    Which assumption? That a soul is not "a mere epiphenomenon" of a nervous system, or that the Pope knows it to be correct??
     
  9. UTEOTW

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    I think your answer is in the sentence that follows what you bolded. Environmental pressures are not the only pressures affecting evolution. Sexual selection plays a part. There are some real oddities in the world based on environmental pressures that make much more sense when sexual selection is taken into account. Peacocks, for example, and their large tail feathers. In the case of human intelligence, while we may be smarter than what is required to survive the savannah, intelligence is useful and will help the chances of survival. Look at what happened when Neanderthal and Homo sapiens came in contact. The smarter survived to make computers to discuss with each other their survival.
     

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