EP Primer
Evolutionary Psychology: An Integrative Approach
The Fallacy of Fitness Maximization
(December 12, 1996, revised June 3, 1998)

Sociobiology originated with the work of W.D. Hamilton, Robert Trivers, Edward O. Wilson, and Richard Alexander in the late 1960s (cf. bibliography). Their work solved certain long-standing problems in evolutionary theory; for instance, Hamilton's brilliant work on kin selection finally made the altruistic behavior of the eusocial insects comprehensible in terms of natural selection. The application of the novel theoretical framework to human behavior, however, ran into some serious and theoretically illuminating difficulties.

In political terms, the proposal that human behavior can reductively be explained by the molecular logic of genes caused a furore; the history of the controversy is a fascinating topic in itself (cf. Caplan 1978). The outcome was rather damaging; the passionate rejection of the implications of the early claims of sociobiology has made the debate about the relation between nature and culture more problematic. In the following, I critique the theoretically powerful central thesis of early sociobiology - that humans behave the way they do because such behavior maximizes their reproductive fitness - as illuminatingly flawed.

The page also suggests some key differences between sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. It was prepared as a series of overheads for an informal talk.

A. The Frame Problem

The First Cognitive Revolution

The Second Cognitive Revolution
Chomsky (1996), p. 20

B. Framing Life

The First Intentionalist Trap

The Second Intentionalist Trap The Adaptationist Model: Disjunctions with respect to Intentionalism

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© 1998 Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California, Los Angeles