AS203: Dr. Richard Carrier, Part 2

We continue the discussion on whether or not 90% of all Evo Psych false. That’s the claim Dr. Richard Carrier makes in his mammoth article, which can be found here. While I’m hoping to have Richard on at a later date to discuss the topic he’s likely most known for – Jesus’s existence, this visit is all about Evolutionary Psychology and whether or not it is a pseudo science.

10 thoughts on “AS203: Dr. Richard Carrier, Part 2”

  1. First of all no experts in evolutionary biology would say it’s a slam dunk, and full of good science. What most of them would tell you though is that Richard Carrier, and his ideological ilk are choosing papers that are the evolutionary biological equivalent to Piltdown Man to critique in their zeal to discredit it as a science.

  2. There is a well-attested behavior universally acknowledged (save by creationists,) to have been shaped by evolution. This behavior’s genetics has been studied, with candidate genes “for” it identified. Localized structures in the brain have been identified as possible modules for the behavior. The developmental history of this behavior displays a kind of critical period, after which the same stimuli no longer have the same efficacy in the development of the behavior. And, this behavior truly is universal across all known cultures with all humans absent brain damage or severe isolation from any culture at all more or less equally capable of performing the behavior.

    As is probably obvious, the behavior is language use. The question for evo psych is, is there any other kind of behavior that is universal across cultures; equally attributable of every adult healthy human; develops with the same pattern through time (within normal variation of course,) for every one; its exercise seems to be performed at specific brain loci; associated with specific genes?

  3. This was fascinating.
    I’ve rapidly become an admirer of Carrier since read On the Historicity.

    I don’t agree with him on everything, but I like his thought process. He’s supremely logical and rational, he rarely makes bald assertions but rather heavily cites his statements, and most importantly admits when he’s not sure or doesn’t know.

    I started reading his other output (blog, the morality book etc.). It was hard and it took me a while, but I came to realize from reading him that most of the people I’d been listening to on social justice issues and feminism, those against them who I thought had good points, were mostly full of it.

    I’ve become a better skeptic and a less angry person thanks to this.

  4. EvoPsych is clearly just a fancy way of asking the eternal teenage male question “Why don’t the girls like me?” I came up with something very similar as a teen, without having read anything about what was then called sociobiology, before realizing reality wasn’t nearly that simple.

  5. Thanks for putting this on. I have a few quibbles, the main one being that anthropologists have been important in evopsych (not something I am proud of, just an embarrassing fact), so Carrier’s distinction between anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists would not stand up in all cases. Cross-cultural studies also need to be treated cautiously, as there are often historical connections between cultures that can lead to similar traits-it’s very hard to establish independence. But those are quibbles. He solidly covered standard critiques, and added some new (at least to me) ones, like the 90% argument.

    It seems to me that evopsych has greater weight among skeptics and atheists than even among the general population, so I am glad to see other perspectives given an airing. It was a good listen.

  6. When I first saw the episode titles and descriptions I was like, “Oh no, here’s another person speaking outside his area of expertise on a topic for personal political reasons.”

    I was pleasantly surprised. And I actually found his arguments convincing. Evolutionary Psychology is something I never really paid much attention to. I had no idea they were making the claims they were.

    I do however, await any serious rebuttal of Carrier’s article as it’s certainly possible that my original impression was correct and Carrier is simply that convincing of an orator.

      1. This isn’t a good response I don’t think. It only deals with the title of Carrier’s piece and doesn’t deal with the substance at all. I’d love to hear about some good Evo Psych studies for example, or maybe reasons why the ones he criticized are good or something. Not much here.

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