By Rob Brooks, Prof. of Evolutionary Ecology, UNSW
Evolutionary psychologists get a bad rap. I should not be surprised, really. They probe motivations for human behaviour that often exist far beneath conscious thought and the sanitised stories people tell themselves about why they do what they do. Some evolutionary explanations for human behaviour sound so outrageous that the only reasonable reaction seems to be … outrage.
In this vein, I recently enjoyed a hugely productive detour into the science of social conservatism. Not to say that conservatism is a science. That would be ironic. I mean the evolutionary explanations for why some people gravitate toward conservatism and others toward progressive ideas.
It started with a few posts by US author Chris Mooney, promoting his recent book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why they Deny Science — And Reality. Which introduced me to moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt....
Normally, I have an allergy to evolutionary psychology, NOT because I'm afraid of evolution or like my human exceptionalism attacked, as evolutionary psychologists tend to assert, but because I often find conclusions come before data or the interpretive lens is simply un-disprovable, bullet proof no matter what the findings. HOWEVER, this short post by Prof. Brooks is very good and, though I might not agree with all of it, does a nice job also laying out some of the key concepts around the 'behavioural immune system.'