While I am not a practicing scientist I have a doctoral degree and read a good bit of Evolutionary Psychology. I looked forward to this as a good overview of the topic. Instead this is a terribly naive and weak series of lectures. I'm really shocked Cornell University lets this lecturer teach their intro to Evolutionary Psych.
First, the lecturer spends most of the first few lectures arguing that Evolutionary Psych is the first and only field to really understand the human mind "the way it really is and not they way we want it to be." He creates laughable straw men of every other theory of human mind and behavior and then compares them to a hopelessly rosy and triumphalist presentation of Ev Psych. Really?
This man should be forced to take Basic Logic and Philosophy of Science before he ever stands in front of students again.
He actually leaves out many of the methods and discoveries of Evolutionary Psych. His central focus for much of the series is how behavior could have evolved in animals. He then extrapolates from animal behavior to human behavior. Extrapolating from animal research to human research takes up a majority of his lectures. He spends an hour discussing research on communal behavior in social insects and maybe 5 minutes discussing communal behavior in humans. There are similarities, but the behavior of invertebrates is only minimally enlightening when researching human communities.
In addition to focusing on animals almost to the exclusion of interesting Ev Psych research on humans this lecturer seems obsessed with monogamy.
He brings up some interesting discoveries on human sexuality, but he only mentions these in passing as his entire project in the final lectures seems to be to inform us that "serial monogamy" is really a form of polygamy. He comes back again and again to this semantic difference. While Ev Psych discoveries do dispel the idea that humans are "naturally" monogamous, he seems infuriated that any people or society dare to espouse such a ridiculous ideal as monogamy. For someone who states again and again that science is "value free" this lecturer certainly seems to have an axe to grind.
He doesn't even mention the idea that attempting monogamy could have adoptive benefits, despite the fact that there are very strong arguments that in societies with more abundant resources encouraging monogamy as the ideal (even if not followed perfectly) drastically decreases male-male violence, stabilizing the society as a whole. I'm not defending monogamy here, but it's annoying to see an angry professor dealing inaccurate science from a stacked deck.
Evolutionary Psych is a fascinating field and you should study it, however, this lecture series is biased, philosophically naive, and scientifically weak. It is more likely to turn you off to this amazing field of study than turn you on to it.
Report Inappropriate Content