Defenders of evolutionary theory, for instance, have pointed out that defeating a theory by contrary facts (falsification) is not the only way that science proceeds (Ellis & Ketelaar, 2000; Ketelaar & Ellis, 2000 ). An alternative criterion for scientific progress is whether it generates novel predictions and explanations. By this standard, evolutionary theory does quite well. In terms of how well evolutionary theory of personality organizes known knowledge, we would argue the theory rates quite highly. Evolutionary theory is very broad and long-range in its scope and in that sense it provides a range of explanations Page 452 seldom seen in social science. It offers explanations for the ultimate origins of not only all biological systems, but human thought, behavior, and personality as well. As a guide for practitioners however, we give the theory relatively low marks. Evolutionary theory says little about how we should raise our children, what we should teach them and how, or how to conduct therapy to treat mental disorders. The theory is more abstract and pure than concrete and applied.
Page 24 Evolutionary theory of personality rates moderate on internal consistency. Adaptation is a guiding principle and many ideas stem from this core concept. And most scholars agree on how to define adaptation. However, not all agree on what is and is not an adaptation. The most glaring example is personality. Although Buss, MacDonald, and Nettles all agree that personality variability is an adaptation, two other leading theorists, Tooby and Cosmides, do not. Evolutionary theory of personality scores high on the criterion of parsimony. The idea that you can explain the origins of human personality with a few key concepts of adaptation, mechanism, and natural and sexual selection is quite simple. Concept of Humanity It is difficult to say on which side of the optimism-pessimism debate evolutionary theory would fall. It is mostly descriptive and, in that sense, tends to be somewhat neutral about describing human nature. Humans are and have been capable of incredibly uplifting acts of heroism and bravery and cooperation, inspiring works of creativity, and unbelievable and unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty. Both extremes are part of human nature (Pinker, 2002). Evolutionary psychology has a complex view on the question of determinism versus free-will. A common assumption of evolutionary theory by critics is that it is harshly deterministic in that it explains behavior in terms of an evolved past and genetic influence. Indeed, evolutionary psychology is often criticized for condoning traditional sex-roles (e.g., women are attracted to high status men and men are attracted to physically attractive women). Buss and other evolutionary theorists make clear, however, that evolutionary psychology is a theory of how these traits began, not how they should be. In other words, it is meant to be more descriptive than prescriptive. Moreover, as we saw with Buss’s view of the origin of personality, biological and environmental explanations are not mutually exclusive. They are both
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