121.6 WOL Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

I’ve found myself skeptical of the whole field of evolutionary psychology. There might someday be a scientific basis for evolutionary psychology, but right now it has all the scientific sophistication of mythology and, from a structural standpoint, that is precisely what it is, an attempt to formulate a narrative to support an existing reality. 

Given this, it’s somewhat ironic that Lewis Wolpert’s attempt to understand belief from a scientific perspective tends to depend heavily on evolutionary psychology. He attempts to make the case (and, I think, fails) that belief has its origins in toolmaking and some of his ventures into comparative psychology fail to acknowledge a great deal of more recent study that indicates that toolmaking and concept of self may be more prevalent in non-humans than previously believed.

I’m not quite certain about Wolpert’s claim that scientific thought originated in, and only in, ancient Greece, attributing any technological advances in other cultures to trial and error rather than scientific processes. Frankly, I’m not sufficiently educated in non-European history to judge his claim; I do suspect, however, that the same applies to Wolpert as well.

To Wolpert’s credit he does lay out his biases early on, although he is sometimes blind to the boundaries of his biases. In particular, while he dismisses (correctly, I believe) psychoanalytic theory, he seems unaware to the extent to which the same has been incorporated into his own worldview and quite cheerfully applies a psychoanalytic explanation to aspects of human behavior.

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