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“This may seem at odds with evolutionary psychology, which is often seen as an argument for hard-wired Stone Age behavior, but Dr. Pinker sees that view as a misunderstanding of the science.”

In other words, evolutionary psychology can predict anything even mutually exclusive events.

“Stephen Jay Gould accused him and other evolutionary psychologists of seeing fine-tuned adaptations in every facet of human existence.”

I have to agree.

“He acknowledges, of course, that the past century produced two horrific world wars. But he says they do not refute his argument.”

How many world wars would it take to refute his argument? I’m guessing hundreds.

“’Even if we do have inclinations toward violence, we also have inclination to empathy, to cooperation, to self-control.’ Which inclinations come to the fore depends on our social surroundings.”

That sounds like circular reasoning. What determines social surroundings if not human inclinations?

Anyone who thinks evolutionary psychology argues for "hard-wired Stone Age behavior" doesn't understand what evolutionary psychology actually says. It's certainly not Pinker's view.

Gould never understood evolutionary psychology -- purposefully, I think, as it disproved his Marxism.

Take a look at Pinker's argument on the wars. More wars does not mean more deaths. It especially does not mean more deaths per war. Naturally, more wars and more deaths would refute his argument, but as it turns out the actual facts support him completely.

Human nature is complex, and complexity is drive by paradoxical tensions. Humans are selfish and altruistic, compete and cooperate, are individualistic and social, etc. We do have inclinations toward violence, but also toward peaceful cooperation. Social conditions do in fact affect which comes to the fore at any given time. It's not circular reasoning, but feedback. Violent inclinations create a less social climate; peaceful inclinations create a more social climate. Groups compete. The greater the social cohesion, the more likely the group is to succeed relative to other groups. Thus, peaceful behaviors eventually take over. That's feedback.

All that Pinker says may be true but it is also mostly obvious. The humanists were there decades or millenia ago. For example, compare Pinker: "Which inclinations come to the fore depends on our social surroundings" to Ortega y Gasset: "I am me and my circumstances."

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