(posted to Facebook, April 8, 2008)
I'm pretty sure this is my favorite research paper out of all
the ones I've ever written (which is a lot). I guess tedious
assignments can be enjoyable when you make your topic
something you really find interesting.
The competition in which I entered did not feel the same way.
I apologize about the lack of footnotes, they did not register
when I copied and pasted. If you are interested in the paper,
I can print you your very own copy.
I found some pretty drastic typos. I apologize. I was fourteen.
Evolutionary Psychology vs. Fallen Man
March 2nd, 2006
What causes the negative behavior of the human society? Is it evolutionary or is man fallen, sinful, and accountable? Do genes, thought, and environment influence behavior or is there something else, something bigger? How has evolutionary thinking entered the field of psychology, and how has this viewpoint affected today’s social values?
Psychology is the study of what the brain does. Most psychologists believe that there is a biological counterpart to every thought or feeling, and the changes in the brain can dramatically affect the way a human behaves. Similarly, biological psychologists focus on the influence of hormones, genes, and the nervous system, as well as the brain. They also try to answer questions such as how much personality is inherited, if there is a gene for suicide, if mental stress causes physical illness, and if different brains function differently. Biological Psychology also participates in the “nature vs. nurture” debate, where this study clearly sides with nature. This debate will be covered more later.
Another type of psychology is Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary Psychologists study the behaviors that are common throughout mankind to see how they helped us become the “rulers of the world”. Evolutionary Psychologists believe that the key to understanding how humanity behaves is in the behavior of our ancestors. If we can reconstruct issues that our ancestors coped with, we can understand the techniques for problem solving that they possessed to help them survive. Therefore, these crucial skills were passed down and became a genetic part of being human.
From an evolutionary standing, all of humanity has won. Just being alive means our ancestors survived, adapted to, and flourished in their natural environment. These traits were passed on from generation to generation until, eventually, here we are. This theory is called natural selection and is very important to evolutionary psychology. It states that human beings have acquired skills and knowledge that promote their survival and reproduction.
Darwin’s theory of the “survival of the fittest” (which is mainly the same as natural selection) presents the belief that the creatures that survive have the best genes, and that they will pass these genes onto their offspring. And in turn, this family line will survive.
One thing that is believed to have helped us survive is our brain. Evolutionary psychologists say the human brain has evolved to its current form because its features enabled our ancestors to survive. Another trait that is said to be crucial to survival is the need to belong. This theory states that a human needs to have personal relationships and that this need is a basic motive that has evolved for adaptive purposes, and that the ones who lived with others had the best chance of survival. Because this instinct for community helped us survive, it is said that we developed self-control and cooperation.
“Self control is a human characteristic that we often over look. Yet nature has obviously favored it, since it appears to have selected those of our ancestors who exhibited it. After all, humans live in communities, for greater chances of survival, so evolution must have favored cooperation and self-restraint.”
But clearly not every single human has perfectly evolved self-control. It often seems that hardly anyone has much self-restraint at all. If everyone had perfect cooperation and perfect self-control and perfect self-restraint, like this theory states, then there wouldn’t be a need for jails, laws, or police. But that’s not how it is so perhaps our genes control our behavior.
But Evolutionary Psychologists say that the influence of our genes on our behavior is indirect. Our genes’ main responsibility is to build and organize the body’s physical structures. These structures then interact with the surrounding environment to produce behavior.
Genes can give us resources to overcome the environment, but a bad environment challenges everyone. Genes only indirectly influence our behavior because they never directly control us. “None of us is a born killer or a saint.”
Evolutionary Psychology states that genes and the environment interact to produce personality. Different children presented with the exact same environment or event interpret and react to it very differently. Because the genetics and social contexts interact so much, it is very difficult to separate their independent effects. So difficult those most psychological scientists have essentially given up. They have concluded that what a person is like comes from both genes and environment.
“…People are born essentially like undeveloped photographs: the image is already captured, but the way it eventually appears can vary based on the developmental process. However, the basic picture is there from the beginning.”
One theory in psychology is that one’s behavior can be changed and ultimately perfected by way of reward and punishment. Within the nature-nurture debate, followers of this theory believe that personality is reached by all nurture.
Yet another theory suggests that a person’s thought process greatly contributes to behavior, and that personality is much more complicated than the simple belief of all nurture.
The debate of nature vs. nurture has been trying to conclude whether psychological characteristics are gained through biological inheritance or through education, experience, and culture.
Psychologists now believe that both nature and nurture play a very important role in an individual’s development of personality. They believe that nature and nurture cannot be separated because they are dependent on one another. So they have now switched their focus to when either is important and how they interact. But children develop in vastly different ways, and maybe nature and nurture were designed to cooperate.
Even though children grow differently, behavior problems of children are at an all-time high. Many parents are no longer providing time, attention, and loving discipline. This is mainly because social values are eroding, and most of these values were based on the Bible. But now that the popular belief is that we evolved this way, there doesn’t seem to be a true need for the Bible, or God. But that doesn’t seem quite right. There are still problems in the world, so why hasn’t evolution and natural selection made everything perfect yet? Or maybe evolutionary psychology can provide yet another excuse.
The latest fad of Evolutionary Psychology states that unruly children are just going through stages of evolution. If your child is throwing a tantrum, all you have to do is grunt and “speak their language”. This method has worked for many, but most anyone would be so intrigued by this strange new behavior to distract any tantrum. The theory that a child’s development reflects his evolutionary ancestry was presented by Granville Stanley Hall in the late 1800’s. He argued that certain ages were just certain stages of evolution. Meaning that one started as ‘pre-civilized man’, just having grown out of being an animal. Ages 6-7 are ‘crisis years’ where schooling begins. Ages 8-12 are believed to be ‘early pigmy years’. And ages 13-18 are the stage of adolescence, where the child finally grows into full civilization. This theory entered the school systems and age segregation became important. Hall made little allowance that children really do mature differently and at different rates. Because of this it is believed to be odd or even suspicious if a child befriends someone that is much older or younger than him. Today it is a terrible thing for a child to be ahead of his peers.
Evolutionary thinking has even entered therapy. Some therapists tell their patients to release their anxiety by screaming and howling, supposedly like their evolutionary ancestors. Even though only some patients experienced short-term relief, this uncontrolled release of emotion ultimately made people feel worse. But the people who did feel immediate relief may have blindly accepted that all of evolution must be true.
It is believed that everyone receives certain tendencies through biological inheritance. These inherited traits helped our ancestors survive and thrive, but our culture and individual personality varies how these tendencies are expressed or triggered. Some things, like emotions, are too complicated, and require the study of one’s culture, life experiences, genes, and personality, as well as the social standards of modern society. It is said that we inherited the ability to express our feelings from our ancestors because this skill helped them survive, and once we understand how our emotions evolved, we can become more aware of, and eventually control, these natural tendencies.
Human emotions may have influenced our ancestors to do things necessary for survival. Maybe anger helped them to defend themselves. Humans are also fairly skilled at recognizing the emotions of others. These emotions have been narrowed down to seven basic feelings: surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, contempt, and sadness. In every culture, people are very accurate at knowing what emotion another is expressing, and this knowledge is believed to have survival benefits. In his book, Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin concluded that expressive emotions are common throughout man and all animals, and that the ability to tell whether another is threatening or hospitable has obvious survival value. Humans communicate emotion very well without verbal language, even though there are more than 550 English words pertaining to emotion.
Humanists believe that people are naturally good and when left to their own devices, they will be the best that they can, and that problems only arise when other people get in their way. Humanists also believe that how a person views his own life is more important than what actually happened. If his perspective is understood, then why he thinks, feels, and acts the way he does will also be known.
Evolutionary Psychology provides excuses for every sin imaginable. This belief is that everything we do is programmed in our genes by evolution because, somehow, these behaviors encouraged survival.
“The application of evolutionary theory to psychology has stirred up a jumble of emotions, not to mention some pretty dark ulterior motives. Instead of explaining behavior through evolution, evolutionary psychology has, at times, been used to justify it.”
Many people are looking for constant reassurance that events from history, such as the holocaust or World War II, will never happen again. People want the security of knowing that humans will not behave like many have. For example, how did Hitler change rational German citizens into thoughtless masses unquestioningly loyal to an evil ideology? Did these Nazis contain a serious mental problem or warped personality that made them follow their leader so blindly? Social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, researched the Nazis’ blind obedience and decided that this was the result of overwhelming situational forces, and that “ordinary people can be coerced into obedience by insistent authorities.”
Many Christians carry the trust of scientists from studies such as architecture or medicine to the origins of the universe, the living world, and humans. They believe it just because a scientist said it, even if it contradicts Scripture. But there are ethical problems in research and science. Scientists and researchers have faced criminal charges for false data on grants, papers, and grant applications. These few instances should not label all scientists as liars, but we must be aware that everyone is captive to the sinful nature and we should not trust all scientists just because of their standing.
Evolution cannot survive on its own; its believers must protect it from open inquiry. Limiting debate between individual, created personality and a common, evolved nature is the only way that evolutionists can keep their monopoly. Evolutionists argue that the belief of unique people and special purposes for these people is just a religion, supported by no real science. But many secular scientists have studied all different views and have concluded that life had to be designed for a reason, not by mere chance from nothing. Debates over this view being offered in public schools have been heated recently. In all these cases, the evolutionists poured money into their side to guarantee a win. If evolution is proven, of what are they afraid? Why do the evolutionists hide everything else from students? Shouldn’t they provide all the potential facts to be thought over critically and scientifically? Why do evolutionists promote their belief so much? Why are they so set on everything they believe? Why do they not think things over, as a good scientist should? Perhaps they are afraid that they are wrong, and because of this fear, they cling even more tightly to their theories. If evolutionists confess that the evidence really does support an intelligent creator and unique creation, and not evolution, then that presents a higher power, which means higher authority, and higher accountability.
Evolutionary Psychology cannot be tested. It is only an excuse for everything. The Bible says in Romans 3:23 that every single human being is sinful. Although Evolutionary Psychology can be applied to almost any behavior, which really means it explains nothing, the negative behavior cannot be blamed on mere chance, we must be held accountable. “…A system capable of explaining anything really explains nothing.”
The Bible. King James Version. New York: American Bible Society, 1972.
Criswell, Dr. Dan. “Can We Trust Science?” Institute for Creation Research. Jan. 13, 2006.
Gazzaniga, Michael S. and Heatherton, Todd F. Psychological Science. USA: W.W. Norton, 2003.
Johnston, Joni E., Psy.D. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Psychology. Indiana: Alpha Books, 2003.
Morris, Dr. John, Ph.D. “What Are They Afraid Of?” Institute for Creation Research. Nov. 16, 2005.
Weinberger, Lael. “Evolution in American Education and the Demise of Its Public School System.” Answers in Genesis. Jan. 31, 2005.
Wieland, Carl. “Taming Your Caveman Children?” Creation Magazine: Volume 27, Issue 1. Dec. 2004.