Criticism of evolutionary psychology

From its beginning, evolutionary psychology (EP) has generated substantial controversy and criticism.[1] Criticisms include 1) disputes about the testability of evolutionary hypotheses, 2) alternatives to some of the cognitive assumptions (such as massive modularity) frequently employed in evolutionary psychology, 3) vagueness stemming from evolutionary assumptions (e.g. uncertainty about the environment of evolutionary adaptation, EEA), 4) differing stress on the importance of non-genetic and non-adaptive explanations, as well as 5) political and ethical issues.

Evolutionary psychologists respond by arguing that many of these criticisms are straw men, are based on a incorrect nature vs. nurture dichotomy, or are based on a misunderstandings of the discipline.[2]


History of the debate

Critics and supporters have debated various aspects of evolutionary psychology. The history of debate from the evolutionary psychology perspective is covered in detail in books by Segerstråle (2000) and Alcock (2001). Also see recent overviews of EP with rebuttals to critics in Confer, et al. (2010),[3] as well as relevant chapters in D. M. Buss (Ed.), The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology.[4]

The history of the debate from the critics' perspective is detailed by Gannon (2002). Critics of EP include the philosophers of science David Buller author of Adapting Minds, Robert C. Richardson author of Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology, and Brendan Wallace, author of Getting Darwin Wrong: Why Evolutionary Psychology Won't Work. Other critics include Neurobiologists like Steven Rose who edited "Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments against Evolutionary Psychology", and biological anthropologists like Jonathan Marks and social anthropologists like Tim Ingold and Marshall Sahlins.[citation needed]

Critics of EP have argued that evolutionary psychology is based on misconceptions of biological and evolutionary theory.[5][clarification needed]

Massive modularity

One controversy concerns the particular modularity of mind theory used in evolutionary psychology (massive modularity). Critics, including some psychologists using other evolutionary frameworks, argue in favor of other theories.[citation needed]

Fear and phobias as innate or learnt

Critics have questioned the proposed innateness of certain phobias.[6][clarification needed]

Environment of evolutionary adaptedness

One method employed by evolutionary psychologists is using knowledge of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness to generate hypotheses regarding possible psychological adaptations.

Part of the critique of the scientific base of evolutionary psychology includes a critique of the concept of the environment of evolutionary adaptation (EEA). EP often assumes that human evolution occurred in a uniform environment, and critics suggest that we know so little about the environment (or probably multiple environments) in which homo sapiens evolved, that explaining specific traits as an adaption to that environment becomes highly speculative.[7]

Evolutionary psychologists John Toby and Leda Cosmides state that research is confined to certainties about the past, such as pregnancies only occurring in women, and that humans lived in groups. They argue that there are many environmental features that are known regarding our species' evolutionary history. They argue that our hunter-gatherer ancestors dealt with predators and prey, food acquisition and sharing, mate choice, child rearing, interpersonal aggression, interpersonal assistance, diseases and a host of other fairly predictable challenges that constituted significant selection pressures. Knowledge also include things such as nomadic, kin-based lifestyle in small groups, long life for mammals, low fertility for mammals, long female pregnancy and lactation, cooperative hunting and aggression, tool use, and sexual division of labor.[8]


A frequent critique of EP is that its hypotheses are difficult or impossible to adequately test, challenging its status as an empirical science. As an example, critics point out that many current traits likely evolved to serve different functions than they do now, confounding attempts to make backward inferences into history.[9] Evolutionary psychologists acknowledge the difficulty of testing their hypotheses but assert it is nevertheless possible.[10]

Critics argue that many hypotheses put forward to explain the adaptive nature of human behavioural traits are "just-so stories"; neat adaptive explanations for the evolution of given traits that do not rest on any evidence beyond their own internal logic. They allege that evolutionary psychology can predict many, or even all, behaviours for a given situation, including contradictory ones. Therefore many human behaviours will always fit some hypotheses. Noam Chomsky argued:

"You find that people cooperate, you say, ‘Yeah, that contributes to their genes' perpetuating.’ You find that they fight, you say, ‘Sure, that’s obvious, because it means that their genes perpetuate and not somebody else's. In fact, just about anything you find, you can make up some story for it."[11][12]

Leda Cosmides argued in an interview:

"Those who have a professional knowledge of evolutionary biology know that it is not possible to cook up after the fact explanations of just any trait. There are important constraints on evolutionary explanation. More to the point, every decent evolutionary explanation has testable predictions about the design of the trait. For example, the hypothesis that pregnancy sickness is a byproduct of prenatal hormones predicts different patterns of food aversions than the hypothesis that it is an adaptation that evolved to protect the fetus from pathogens and plant toxins in food at the point in embryogenesis when the fetus is most vulnerable – during the first trimester. Evolutionary hypotheses – whether generated to discover a new trait or to explain one that is already known – carry predictions about the nature of that trait. The alternative – having no hypothesis about adaptive function – carries no predictions whatsoever. So which is the more constrained and sober scientific approach?"

A 2010 review article by evolutionary psychologists describes how an evolutionary theory may be empirically tested. An hypothesis is made about the evolutionary cause of a psychological phenomenon or phenomena. Then the researcher makes predictions that can be tested. This involves predicting that the evolutionary cause will have caused other effects than the ones already discovered and known. Then these predictions are tested. The authors argue numerous evolutionary theories have been tested in this way and confirmed or falsified.[13] Buller (2005) makes the point that the entire field of evolutionary psychology is never confirmed or falsified; only specific hypotheses, motivated by the general assumptions of evolutionary psychology, are testable. Accordingly he views evolutionary psychology as a paradigm rather than a theory, and attributes this view to prominent evolutionary psychologists including Cosmides, Tooby, Buss, and Pinker.[14]

In his review article Discovery and Confirmation in Evolutionary Psychology (in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Psychology) Edouard Machery concludes:

"Evolutionary psychology remains a very controversial approach in psychology, maybe because skeptics sometimes have little first-hand knowledge of this field, maybe because the research done by evolutionary psychologists is of uneven quality. However, there is little reason to endorse a principled skepticism toward evolutionary psychology: Although clearly fallible, the discovery heuristics and the strategies of confirmation used by evolutionary psychologists are on a firm grounding."


One aspect of evolutionary psychology is finding traits that have been shown to be universal in humans. Many critics have pointed out that many traits considered universal at some stage or another by evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists often turn out to be dependent on cultural and particular historical circumstances. Critics allege that evolutionary psychologists tend to assume that their own current cultural context represents a universal human nature; for example, in a review of Steven Pinker's book on evolutionary psychology (The Blank Slate), Louis Menand wrote: "In general, the views that Pinker derives from 'the new sciences of human nature' are mainstream Clinton-era views: incarceration is regrettable but necessary; sexism is unacceptable, but men and women will always have different attitudes toward sex; dialogue is preferable to threats of force in defusing ethnic and nationalist conflicts; most group stereotypes are roughly correct, but we should never judge an individual by group stereotypes; rectitude is all very well, but 'noble guys tend to finish last'; and so on.".[15]

However, evolutionary psychologists[who?] point out that their research actually focuses on commonalities between people of different cultures to help to identify "human psychological nature" and cultural universals. It is not a focus on local behavioral variation (which may sometimes be considered ethnocentric) that interests evolutionary psychologists; rather their focus is to find underlying psychological commonalities between people from various cultures.[16]

Reductionism and determinism

Some critics view evolutionary psychology as a form of genetic reductionism and determinism[1]

Evolutionary psychology is in part based on the theory that our psychology is fundamentally based on biology, the composition of our brains. Some see this as a form of reductionism whereby the nature of complex things can be understood in terms of simpler or more fundamental things (i.e. reduced).

Such critics argue that a reductionist analysis of the relationship between genes and behaviour results in a flawed research program and a restricted interpretation of the evidence, creating problems for the creation of models attempting to explain behaviour. Lewontin, Rose & Kamin instead advocate a dialectical interpretation of behaviour in which "it is not just that wholes are more than the sum of their parts, it is that parts become qualitatively new by being parts of the whole."[17] They argue that reductionist explanations such as the hierarchical reductionism proposed by Richard Dawkins[citation needed] will cause the researcher to miss dialectical ones.

Evolutionary psychologists Workman and Reader reply that while reductionism may be a "dirty word" to some it is actually an important scientific principle. They argue it is at the root of discoveries such as the world being made up of atoms and complex life being the result of evolution. At the same time they emphasize that it is important to look at all "levels" of explanations, e.g. both psychologists looking at environmental causes of depression and neuroscientists looking the brain contribute to different aspects of our knowledge of depression. Workman and Reader also deny the accusation of genetic determinism, asserting that genes usually do not cause behaviors absolutely but predispose to certain behaviors that are affected by factors such as culture and an individual's life history.[18]

Alternative explanations

Adaptive explanations vs. environmental, cultural, social, and dialectical explanations

A common critique is that evolutionary psychology does not address the complexity of individual development and experience and fails to explain the influence of genes on behavior in individual cases.[19]

Critics assert that evolutionary psychology has trouble developing research that can distinguish between environmental and cultural explanation and adaptive evolutionary explanations. Some studies have been criticized for their tendency to attribute to evolutionary processes elements of human cognition that may be attributable to social processes (e.g. preference for particular physical features in mates), cultural artifacts (e.g. patriarchy and the roles of women in society), or dialectical considerations (e.g. behaviours in which biology interacts with society, as when a biologically determined skin colour determines how one is treated). Evolutionary psychologists are frequently criticized for ignoring the vast bodies of literature in psychology, philosophy, politics and social studies. Both sides of the debate stress that statements such as "biology vs. environment" and "genes vs. culture" amount to false dichotomies, and outspoken critics of sociobiology such as Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose and Leon Kamin helped to popularise a "dialectical" approach to questions of human behaviour, where biology and environment interact in complex ways to produce what we see.[20]

Evolutionary psychologists respond that their discipline is not primarily concerned with explaining the behavior of specific individuals, but rather broad categories of human behaviors across societies and cultures. It is the search for species-wide psychological adaptations (or "human nature") that distinguishes evolutionary psychology from purely cultural or social explanations. These psychological adaptations include cognitive decision rules that respond to different environmental, cultural, and social circumstances in ways that are (on average) adaptive.[citation needed]

Evolutionary psychologists Confer et al. argue the evolutionary psychology fully accept nature-nurture interactionism and that it possible to test the theories in order to distinguish between different explanations.[13]

Adaptive explanations vs. other evolutionary mechanisms

Critics point out that within evolutionary biology there are many other non-adaptive pathways along which evolution can move to produce the behaviors seen in humans today. Natural selection is not the only evolutionary process that can change gene frequencies and produce novel traits. Genetic drift refers to random effects resulting from chance variation in the genes, environment, or development. Evolutionary by-products are traits that were not specially designed for an adaptive function, although they may also be species-typical and may also confer benefits on the organism. A "spandrel" is a term coined by Gould and Lewontin (1979a) for traits which confer no adaptive advantage to an organism, but are 'carried along' by an adaptive trait. Gould advocates the hypothesis that cognition in humans came about as a spandrel: "Natural selection made the human brain big, but most of our mental properties and potentials may be spandrels - that is, nonadaptive side consequences of building a device with such structural complexity".[21]

Once a trait acquired by some other mechanism confers an adaptive advantage, as evolutionary psychologists argue that many of our "mental properties and potentials" do, it may be open to further selection as an "exaptation".[original research?] Critics allege that the adaptive (and exaptive) significance of mental traits studied by evolutionary psychologists has not been shown, and that selection has not necessarily guided the appearance of such traits.[citation needed]

Evolutionary psychologists suggest that critics mischaracterize their field, and that their empirical research is designed to help identify which psychological traits are likely to adaptations, and which are not.[22]

Disjunction and grain problems

Some have argued that even if the theoretical assumptions of evolutionary psychology turned out to be true, it would nonetheless lead to methodological problems that would compromise its practice.[23][24] The disjunction and grain problems are argued to create methodological challenges related to the indeterminacy of evolutionary psychology’s adaptive functions. That is, the inability to correctly choose, from a number of possible answers to the question: “what is the function of a given mechanism?”[23]

The disjunction problem[23][25] occurs when a mechanism appears to respond to one thing (F), but is also correlated with another (G). Whenever F is present, G is also present, and the mechanism seems to respond to both F and G. The difficulty thus involves deciding whether to characterize the mechanism's adaptive function as being related to F, G, or both. “For example, a frogs pre-catching mechanism responds to flies, bees, food pellets, etc.; so is its adaptation attuned to flies, bees, fleebees, pellets, all of these, or just some?”[23]

The grain problem[23][26] refers to the challenge in knowing what kind of environmental ‘problem’ an adaptive mental mechanism might have solved. As summarized by Sterenly & Griffiths (1999): “What are the problems ‘out there’ in the environment? Is the problem of mate choice a single problem or a mosaic of many distinct problems? These problems might include: When should I be unfaithful to my usual partner? When should I desert my old partner? When should I help my sibs find a partner? When and how should I punish infidelity?”[27] The grain problem therefore refers to the possibility that an adaptive problem may actually involve a set of nested ‘sub-problems’ “which may themselves relate to different input domains or situations. Franks states that "if both adaptive problems and adaptive solutions are indeterminate, what chance is there for evolutionary psychology?"[23]

Franks also states that "The arguments in no sense count against a general evolutionary explanation of psychology." and that by relaxing assumptions the problems may be avoided, although this may reduce the ability to make detailed models.[23]

Behaviors that reduce reproductive success

Behaviors such as homosexuality and suicide seem to reduce reproductive success and pose a challenge for evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychologists have proposed explanations, such that there may be reproductive benefits for relatives or that they may be byproducts of adaptive behaviors that usually increase reproductive success but a review by Confer et al. states that they "remain at least somewhat inexplicable on the basis of current evolutionary psychological accounts"[13]

Political and ethical issues

That human psychology may be determined by our biology, which is shaped by our evolutionary past, is an important idea for those involved in ethics. The implications are as broad and varied as the field of ethics itself.

"Is" and "ought"

Part of the controversy has consisted in each side accusing the other of holding or supporting extreme political viewpoints: evolutionary psychology has often been accused of supporting right wing politics, whereas critics have been accused of being motivated by Marxist view points.[7][28]

Many critics have alleged that evolutionary psychology and sociobiology are nothing more than political justifications for the "status quo." Evolutionary psychologists have been accused of conflating "is" and "ought", and evolutionary psychology has been used to argue against social change (because the way things are now has been evolved and adapted), and to argue against social justice (e.g. the argument that the rich are only rich because they've inherited greater abilities, so programs to raise the standards of the poor are doomed to fail).[29]

In rebuttal, Glenn Wilson, a pioneer of EP, "promoting recognition of the true power and role of instincts is not the same as advocating the total abandonment of social restraint."[30] Left-wing philosopher Peter Singer in his book A Darwinian Left has argued that the view of human nature provided by evolution is compatible with and should be incorporated into the ideological framework of the Left.

Evolutionary psychology critics have argued that researchers use their research to promote a right-wing agenda. Evolutionary psychologists conducted a 2007 study investigating the views of a sample of 168 United States PhD psychology students. The authors concluded that those who self-identified as adaptationists were much less conservative than the general population average. They also found no differences compared to non-adaptationist students and found non-adaptationists to express a preference for less strict and quantitative scientific methodology than adaptationists.[31]

The book The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker responded to many of the moral and political criticisms. He also describes two logical fallacies. "The naturalistic fallacy is the idea that what is found in nature is good. It was the basis for Social Darwinism, the belief that helping the poor and sick would get in the way of evolution, which depends on the survival of the fittest. Today, biologists denounce the Naturalistic Fallacy because they want to describe the natural world honestly, without people deriving morals about how we ought to behave -- as in: If birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, cannibalism, it must be OK)."

"The moralistic fallacy is that what is good is found in nature. It lies behind the bad science in nature-documentary voiceovers: lions are mercy-killers of the weak and sick, mice feel no pain when cats eat them, dung beetles recycle dung to benefit the ecosystem and so on. It also lies behind the romantic belief that humans cannot harbor desires to kill, rape, lie, or steal because that would be too depressing or reactionary."[32]

Evolutionary psychology has been criticized by some feminists, such as Tang-Martinez, as justifying rape.[33] Evolutionary psychologists McKibbin et al. argue that this is a fallacy in the same way it would be a fallacy to accuse the scientists doing research on the causes of cancer of justifying cancer. Instead, they argue that understanding the causes of rape may help create preventive measures.[33]

For more discussion of these issues, see Confer, et al., (2010).[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b Plotkin, Henry. 2004 Evolutionary thought in Psychology: A Brief History. Blackwell. p.150.
  2. ^ Confer, J. C., Easton, J. A., Fleischman, D. S., Goetz, C. D., Lewis, D. M., Perilloux, C., & Buss, D. M. (2010). Evolutionary Psychology: Controversies, Questions, Prospects, and Limitations. American Psychologist, 65, 110-126.
  3. ^ , Evolutionary Psychology: Controversies, Questions, Prospects, and Limitations.
  4. ^ (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley), including Tooby, J. & Cosmides, L. (2005). Conceptual foundations of evolutionary psychology Full text, and Controversies surrounding evolutionary psychology by Edward H. Hagen.
  5. ^ Theoretical Issues in Psychology: An Introduction. Sage. 2006. pp. 230–1. 
  6. ^ Buller, David. (2005) Adapting Minds.
  7. ^ a b Plotkin, Henry. 2004 Evolutionary thought in Psychology: A Brief History. Blackwell. p.149.
  8. ^ The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (2005), David M. Buss, Chapter 1, pp. 5-67, Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Psychology, John Tooby and Leda Cosmides
  9. ^ Schacter, Daniel L, Daniel Wegner and Daniel Gilbert. 2007. Psychology. Worth Publishers. pp. 26-27
  10. ^ "Testing ideas about the evolutionary origins of psychological phenomena is indeed a challenging task, but not an impossible one (Buss, Haselton, Shackelford, Bleske, & Wakefield, 1998; Pinker, 1997b)." Schacter, Daniel L, Daniel Wegner and Daniel Gilbert. 2007. Psychology. Worth Publishers. pp. 26-27
  11. ^ Horgan, John (2000) [1999]. The Undiscovered Mind: How the Brain Defies Explanation. London: Phoenix. pp. 179. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d Confer, J. C.; Easton, J. A.; Fleischman, D. S.; Goetz, C. D.; Lewis, D. M. G.; Perilloux, C.; Buss, D. M. (2010). "Evolutionary psychology: Controversies, questions, prospects, and limitations". American Psychologist 65 (2): 110–126. doi:10.1037/a0018413. PMID 20141266.  edit
  14. ^ Buller, D. (2005). Evolutionary psychology: the emperor's new paradigm. TRENDS in Cognitive Science 9(6): 277-283.
  15. ^ Menand, L. (22 November 2002). "What Comes Naturally". The New Yorker. 
  16. ^ Buss, D. M. (2011)[not specific enough to verify]
  17. ^ See Chapter 10 of "Biology, Ideology and Human Behavior: Not In Our Genes" (1984) by Lewontin, Rose & Kamin for a discussion of these issues.
  18. ^ Evolutionary psychology: an introduction, Lance Workman, Will Reader, Cambridge University Press; 2004, p25-26
  19. ^ "instinct." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 09 Feb. 2011. [1].
  20. ^ Lewontin, Rose & Kamin (1984) "Biology, Ideology and Human Nature: Not In Our Genes", Chapter 10
  21. ^ Quote from Stephen Jay Gould, The Pleasures of Pluralism, p.11
  22. ^ Buss, David M.; Haselton, Martie G.; Shackleford, Todd K.; Bleske, April L.; Wakefield, Jerome C. (1998). "Adaptations, Exaptations, and Spandrels". American Psychologist 53 (5): 533–548. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Franks, Bradley (2005). The Role of ‘The Environment’ in Cognitive and Evolutionary Psychology. Philosophical Psychology, 18, 1, 59-82.
  24. ^ Richardson, Robert (2007). Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology. London. MIT Press.
  25. ^ Fodor, Jerry (1991). Reply to Millikan. In B. Loewer & G. Rey (Eds.), Meaning in mind. Fodor and his critic. Oxford, England: Blackwell.
  26. ^ Sterelny, K., & Griffiths, P. E. (1999). Sex and death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology. London: University of Chicago Press.
  27. ^ Sterelny, K., & Griffiths, P. E. (1999). Sex and death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology. In B. Franks, The Role of ‘The Environment’ in Cognitive and Evolutionary Psychology. Philosophical Psychology, 18, 1, p. 66
  28. ^ Segerstråle, Ullica Christina Olofsdotter (2000). Defenders of the truth : the battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-850505-1. 
  29. ^ Lewontin, R.C., Rose. S & Kamin, L (1984) Biology, Ideology and Human Nature: Not In Our Genes
  30. ^ Wilson, G.D. Love and Instinct, 1981.
  31. ^ Tybur, J. M.; Miller, G. F.; Gangestad, S. W. (2007). "Testing the Controversy". Human Nature 18 (4): 313. doi:10.1007/s12110-007-9024-y.  edit
  32. ^ Q&A: Steven Pinker of 'Blank Slate', United Press International, 10/30/2002,
  33. ^ a b McKibbin, W. F.; Shackelford, T. K.; Goetz, A. T.; Starratt, V. G. (2008). "Why do men rape? An evolutionary psychological perspective". Review of General Psychology 12: 86. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.12.1.86.  edit

Further reading

Books and book chapters

  • Alcock, John (2001). The Triumph of Sociobiology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195163353
  • Barkow, Jerome (Ed.). (2006) Missing the Revolution: Darwinism for Social Scientists. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195130027
  • Buller, David. (2005) Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature.
  • Buss, David, ed. (2005) The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. ISBN 0-471-26403-2.
  • Degler, C. N. (1991). In search of human nature: The decline and revival of Darwinism in American social thought. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195077070
  • Ehrlich, P. & Ehrlich, A. (2008). The dominant animal: Human evolution and the environment. Washington, DC: Island Press.
  • Fodor, J. (2000). The Mind Doesn't Work That Way: The Scope and Limits of Computational Psychology
  • Fodor, J. & Piattelli-Palmarini, M. (2011). What Darwin got wrong.
  • Gould, S.J. (2002) The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
  • Joseph, J. (2004). The Gene Illusion: Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope. New York: Algora. (2003 United Kingdom Edition by PCCS Books)
  • Joseph, J. (2006). The Missing Gene: Psychiatry, Heredity, and the Fruitless Search for Genes. New York: Algora.
  • Kitcher, Philip. (1985). Vaulting Ambitions: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Nature. London:Cambridge.
  • Kohn, A. (1990) The Brighter Side of Human Nature: Altruism and Empathy in Everyday Life
  • Leger, D. W., Kamil, A. C., & French, J. A. (2001). Introduction: Fear and loathing of evolutionary psychology in the social sciences. In J. A. French, A. C. Kamil, & D. W. Leger (Eds.), The Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, Vol. 47: Evolutionary psychology and motivation, (pp. ix-xxiii). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press
  • Lewontin, R.C., Rose, S. & Kamin, L. (1984) Biology, Ideology and Human Nature: Not In Our Genes
  • Malik, K. (2002). Man, beast, and zombie: What science can and cannot tell us about human nature
  • Rose, H. and Rose, S. (eds.)(2000) Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology Nova York: Harmony Books
  • Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Viking.
  • Richards, Janet Radcliffe (2000). Human Nature After Darwin: A Philosophical Introduction. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415212441
  • Richardson, Robert C. (2007). Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology
  • Sahlins, Marshall. (1976) The Use and Abuse of Biology: An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology
  • Scher, Stephen J.; Rauscher, Frederick, eds. (2003), Evolutionary Psychology: Alternative Approaches, Kluwer 
  • Segerstrale, Ullica (2000). Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0192862150
  • Wallace, B. (2010). Getting Darwin Wrong: Why Evolutionary Psychology Won't Work
  • McKinnon, S. (2006) Neo-liberal Genetics: The Myths and Moral Tales of Evolutionary Psychology
  • Gillette, Aaron. (2007) Eugenics and the Nature-Nurture Debate in the Twentieth Century. Palgrave Macmillanadd on


  • Buller, D., et al. (2000). Evolutionary psychology, meet developmental neurobiology: Against promiscuous modularity. Brain & Mind, 1(3): 307-325.
  • Buller, D. (2005). Evolutionary psychology: the emperor's new paradigm. TRENDS in Cognitive Science 9(6): 277-283.
  • Confer, J. C., Easton, J. A., Fleischman, D. S., Goetz, C. D., Lewis, D. M., Perilloux, C., & Buss, D. M. (2010). Evolutionary Psychology: Controversies, Questions, Prospects, and Limitations. American Psychologist, 65, 110-126.
  • Crane-Seebera, J. & Craneb, B. (2010). Contesting essentialist theories of patriarchal relations: Evolutionary psychology and the denial of history. Journal of Men's Studies, 18(3): 218-237.
  • Davies, P. (2009). Some evolutionary model or other: Aspirations and evidence in evolutionary psychology. Philosophical Psychology, 22(1): 83-97.
  • Derksen, M. (2010). Realism, relativism, and evolutionary psychology. Theory & Psychology, 20(4): 467-487.
  • Derksen, M. (2005). Against integration: Why evolution cannot unify the social sciences. Theory and Psychology, 15(2): 139-162.
  • Ehrlich, P. (2003). Genes and cultures: What creates our behavioral phenome? Current Anthropology, 44(1): 87-107.
  • Fox, E., Griggs, L., & Mouchlianitis, E. (2007). The Detection of Fear-Relevant Stimuli: Are Guns Noticed as Quickly as Snakes? Emotion, 7:4, 691-696.
  • Franks, B. (2005). The role of ‘the environment’ in cognitive and evolutionary psychology. Philosophical Psychology, 18(1): 59-82.
  • Gannon, L. (2002). A Critique of Evolutionary Psychology. Psychology, Evolution & Gender, 4.2: 173-218.
  • Gerrans, P. (2002). The Theory of Mind Module in Evolutionary Psychology. Biology and Philosophy, 17, 305-321.
  • Looren de Jong, H. and Steen, W.J. Van der (1998) ‘Biological thinking in evolutionary psychology: rockbottom or quicksand?’, Philosophical Psychology, 11: 183–205.
  • Lewontin, R.C. (1998) ‘The evolution of cognition: questions we will never answer’, in D. Scarborough and S. Sternberg (eds), An Invitation to Cognitive Science. Vol. 4: Methods, Models and Conceptual Issues. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 107–32.
  • Lipp, O., Waters, A., Derakshan, N., Logies, S. (2004). Snakes and Cats in the Flower Bed: Fast Detection Is Not Specific to Pictures of Fear-Relevant Animals. Emotion, 4:3, 233-250.
  • Lloyd, E.A. (1999) ‘Evolutionary psychology: the burdens of proof’, Biology and Philosophy, 14: 211–33.
  • Machery, E. (2007). Massive modularity and brain evolution. Philosophy of Science, 74, p. 825-838.
  • McKinnon, S. (2005). On Kinship and Marriage: A Critique of the Genetic and Gender Calculus of Evolutionary Psychology. In: Complexities: Beyond Nature & Nurture, McKinnon, S. & Silverman, S. (Eds); pp. 106–131.
  • Panksepp, J., Moskal, J., Panksepp, J., & Kroes, R. (2002). Comparative approaches in evolutionary psychology: Molecular neuroscience meets the mind. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 23(4): 105-115.
  • Panksepp, J. & Panksepp, J. (2000). The Seven Sins of Evolutionary Psychology. Evolution and Cognition, 6:2, 108-131.
  • Smith, E.A., Borgerhoff Mulder, M. and K. Hill (2001). Controversies in the evolutionary social sciences: A guide to the perplexed. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16(3):128-135.
  • Smith, E.A., Borgerhoff Mulder, M. & Hill, K. (2000). Evolutionary analyses of human behaviour: a commentary on Daly & Wilson. Animal Behaviour, 60, F21-F26.
  • Verweij, K., et al. (2010). A genome-wide association study of Cloninger's temperament scales: Implications for the evolutionary genetics of personality. Biological Psychology, 85(2): 306-317.
  • Samuels, R. (1998) ‘Evolutionary psychology and the Massive Modularity hypothesis’, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 49: 575–602.
  • Wilson, D.S., Dietrich, E., et al. (2003). On the inappropriate use of the naturalistic fallacy in evolutionary psychology. Biology and Philosophy, 18, 669-682.
  • Weber, Bruce H. (2006), "Review: Re-Visioning Evolutionary Psychology", The American Journal of Psychology 119: 148–156, 
  • Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2002). A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Behavior of Women and Men: Implications for the Origins of Sex Differences. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 699-727.

Other documents

Online videos

  • The Norwegian "Brainwash" series examines the very different perceptions and theoretical orientations of cultural determinists and evolutionary adaptationists. Note: the password to view these is "hjernevask" (no capital letters, no quotes).
* The Gender Equality Paradox
* The Parental Effect
* Violence
* Sex
* Nature or Nurture

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