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St. Paul March Meetup

Evolutionary Psychology is a late 20th century scientific discipline created for the explicit purpose of understanding how the brain works (mechanisms) and why the brain works that way (adaptations).  It assumes the adaptations we observe in the brain are to the environment in which they arose.  Unfortunately, this new discipline was created in human brains (as opposed to some other really smart species) and human brains did not evolve in an environment in which understanding the workings of brains was important.  Rather, human brains evolved in an environment in which outsmarting other people may have been more important than getting things right.  In this talk, we will see what is right, and perhaps not right, about evolutionary psychology.

Greg Laden is a biological anthropologist who has studied key transitions in human evolution, including the ape-human split and the rise of our genus, Homo.  He was present at the birth of Evolutionary Psychology, in room 14A of the Peabody Museum, at Harvard, and has been observing the field ever since.  Greg writes about evolution, climate change, and other issues on his blog at National Geographic Scienceblogs, often provides public talks or interviews on these topics.

Breakfast Buffet $12.00 Coffee only $3.00.  We need to plan for the room setup and meal, so if you are going to attend, please RSVP by Friday, February 28.

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  • Michael A.

    Yes Bruce, I've heard of Fallon's book but read an excerpt only. Bloom's argument that humans are more than a product of their biochemistry was won long ago, but there are always some fundamentalists who disagree. They can be safely ignored. Your statement that nature and nurture intertwine to form us has been agreed true by 99% of observers for almost ever, as Mr. Laden agrees below although he puts his agreement in an unusual form. Without any environment, we would all be as dead as we'd be without any genes. The more meaningful questions are how variance is distributed along these and possible other dimensions, but those statistics get very boring very fast. Best wishes always to all, MA.

    March 9, 2014

  • Greg L.

    There is a good argument that we are a product of 100% nature and 100% nurture.

    March 8, 2014

  • Bruce P.

    Have either of you heard of James Fallon or his book, "The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain"? I have not read the book yet but there is an article in the January issue of The Atlantic about the book. To summarize: he was studying the brains of certified psychopaths. By accident, he thought that a brain scan of a psychopath had mistakenly been labeled with his name. It turned out it was his brain scan. This caused him to analyze why he did not become a violent psychopath. Conclusion: the parental guidance he received mitigated his natural tendencies, which are dormant within him. The March issue has an essay by Paul Bloom, Yale University psychology professor. He argues that humans are more than a product of their biochemistry.

    Nature and nurture intertwine to form us.

    March 8, 2014

  • Michael A.

    The speaker knew a great deal about his main topic, which I want to emphasize because that's important. And he's very smart. BUT, he also threw in stuff that was flat out not true, incorrect, factually inaccurate and baldly biased when he got into his ideological position about IQ as a measure of intelligence. For example he presented problems of measuring intelligence known to psychologists for two generations (like if you give the test in a language foreign to the testee, you will get wildly inaccurate answers) as though they discredit the whole field, claimed all research stemmed from racists long ago, and that two standard deviations below the mean results in negative IQ (correct answer = about 70, since the standard deviation is about 15 off a mean of 100). These large errors were embedded in a very long, dense, one-way speech filled with technical jargon well known to specialists but not really necessary for a general education audience, even of very bright people like you.

    March 3, 2014

    • Greg L.

      My comment about "below zero" was a slip, an error, a mistake, which I'm afraid caused some people to go off track and miss the point. The point is this: we need to be careful about using tails of normal distributions because normal distributions are often, correctly, used to model data in situations where the tails, nonetheless, are poorly behaved. An example of that would be where way out on the 3 or 4 SD zone of the distribution something impossible happens (like negative bunny rabbits in a distribution of number of bunny rabbits in your neighborhood. You can't have negative bunny rabbits).

      Regarding Michael Andregg's point, I'm happy to agree to disagree on the nature of IQ and genetic determinism of behavior under two conditions: We also agree that I'm right and not presenting an ideological position! and that everybody reads the blog post I just put up in answer to his questions:

      1 · March 7, 2014

    • Greg L.

      And here is the blog post: http://scienceblogs.c...­

      March 7, 2014

  • Greg L.

    Here's a link to a blog post which was originally just an announcement of the talk but to which I've added a movie of the slides. Just use the pause button as you watch as needed.

    I enjoyed the visit to the meetup very much, thanks for having me!

    1 · March 2, 2014

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