Saturday, April 30, 2005

Is that all there is?

Evolution via natural selection is tautologically correct. This applies to the almost uncountable and mostly wonderful capabilities that most of us walk around with. Evolutionary psychologists add that natural selection also explains our many wants and preferences.

So, is that all there is? David Sloan Wilson, among others, has fun with this question in Darwin's Cathedral.

Sharon Begley in yesterday's WSJ ("Evolutionary Psych May Not Help Explain Our Behavior After All") cites David Buller's Adapting Minds (which I have not read) as a source of counter-evidence to the evolutionary psychology approach. Most young women like hot young guys, rather than older richer providers, as the EP line suggests.

Capabilities as well as wants are really all about complex distributions, rather than yes-no traits. This truism makes things interesting.

"'Why did God make us love so much what we mustn't do' [muses Tamara Petrovna]? He [I.A. Serebin] didn't know."

-- dialogue from Alan Furst's Blood of Victory, another of his WW II thrillers-with-brains, in the Graham Greene tradition.