The other day I heard, through the grapevine, that an esteemed colleague thought that evolutionary psychology had, as a discipline, established and sorted out its theoretical basis. All that remained to be done (which is a big all) was to test individual hypotheses through whatever empirical means were available. A body of knowledge needed building.
My initial reaction to this was to be sceptical. If evolutionary psychology is interpreted in its broadest sense – i.e. the application of evolutionary biology to the behavioural sciences, or more correctly, the behavioural sciences are rightly understood as a sub-discipline of biology – then what of the clash between gene-level selectionists and multi-level and group selectionists, for example? Most of this debate is happening in areas that attempt to describe and account for a phenomenon referred to as culture. Culture is claimed to have a distinct and describable ontological status, and some claim that it can evolve whilst others claim it affects gene-level evolution through processes such as niche construction. Folk appear to be trying to sort something theoretical out here using the standard tools of philosophy as well as mathematical modeling. (And, as you will perhaps deduce from my tone, I think there are some other core theoretical issues lurking in the very establishment of the problem.)
Any how, I do not want to bang on about cultural evolution and its ills here, just yet. But, what I wanted to ask folk was:
1) Do you think my esteemed colleague is correct?
2) If not, then what are the key theoretical challenges that remain for evolutionary psychology?
3) If you think she is correct, then what key experiments need doing in order to falsify this body of theory (or rather, in order to attempt a falsification, for it may, of course, not stand)?