Is Evolutionary Psychology Just Sociology in Disguise?
A recent book written by philosopher Dennis Dutton draws from the burgeoning field of evolutionary psychology to explain the biological foundations of creativity. Dutton attempts to synthesize Darwin’s theory of evolution with culture, suggesting that creative capacities have been passed on from one generation to the next as a mode of survival. Storytellers, for example, would have been able to work out “what if” scenarios through making up stories, a practice that would keep them from risking their lives by attempting dangerous activities. According to Dutton, these individuals, along with their attentive listeners, may have had better of odds of survival.
What Dutton and other evolutionary psychologists seem to ignore, however, is the issue of power. They seem to suggest that “survival of the fittest” implies that some people or groups naturally have more power than others. This could be the case if all humans were able to reach a state of natural, uninhibited production. Mechanisms and conduits of power, however, are unequally and often arbitrarily distributed (on the basis of such characteristics as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ablebodiness, geographic location, etc.). An “evolutionary” explanation of creativity may therefore be nothing more than a sociological one.
Power is very important–and not necessarily held by the “fittest.” Schwalbe also explores the role of institutions, which can mediate on behalf of the less fit or less powerful. While animals may have some elements of society (including power) they lack institutions to distribute resources and access (sometimes equally or unequally).
Thanks for an interesting post.