The Best of Evolutionary Psychology According to Jerry Coyne.

None of the Sandwalk readers rose to to challenge of identifying a really good evolutionary psychology paper [The Best of Evolutionary Psychology].

However, Jerry Coyne tries to (partially) defend evolutionary psychology and he offers the following paper as evidence that the field is not entirely worthless.

Confer, J.C., Easton, J.A., Fleischman, D.S., Goetz, C.D., Lewis, D.M.G., Perilloux, C., and Buss, D.M. (2010) Evolutionary Psychology: Controversies, Questions, Prospects, and Limitations. American Psychologist 65:110–126. [doi: 10.1037/a0018413]
The main problem with the adaptationist approach is identifying adaptations. Is something really an adaptation or are there other explanations? Part of the answer involves providing evidence that the behavior has a specific genetic component.

I don't think those problems are satisfactorily addressed in this review in spite of Jerry's recommendation. If this is the best the field has to offer then it's in real trouble.

Here's an example from that paper of the "best" kind of science.
The science of confirming and falsifying hypotheses, of course, is typically more complex than these examples indicate. Often a hypothesis is embedded within a larger theoretical network. For example, one evolutionary prediction is that women will prefer men as potential mates who express a willingness to invest in them and their offspring (Buss, 1995). This is derived from the hypothesis that in paternally investing species, females will use cues to a man’s willingness to invest as a criterion for mate selection. In turn, this hypothesis is derived from parental investment theory, which posits that the sex that invests more in its offspring will be the choosier sex when selecting mates (Trivers, 1972). Finally, the logic behind parental investment theory is derived from inclusive fitness theory (Hamilton, 1964a, 1964b), the modern formulation of evolution by natural selection. As in all realms of psychological science, the evaluation of each evolutionary psychological hypothesis, as well as the broader theories within which they are embedded, rests with the cumulative weight of the empirical evidence.
I've always been puzzled about the evolutionary significance of mate selection in humans. Whenever I look at genealogical records I'm impressed by the fact that almost all men and women who reach maturity seem to find a mate. This jibes well with my personal experience since all of my friends who wanted to live with a partner succeeded in finding one. I wonder how powerful these mate selection criteria can be if there aren't significant numbers of people don't succeed in mating. Where are the ugly mean and women who couldn't find a mate?

Was the situation any different among small groups of hunter-gathers in the distant past? Did each small group have a few individuals that nobody wanted to mate with? Wouldn't that have to be the case if you are going to postulate significant adaptive value to criteria such as facial features, body outline, youthful appearance etc.?

I understand that there are studies showing that men and women in different cultures will prefer certain physical characteristics in their mates. What I don't know is whether this actually translates into mate selection when the time comes to form a stable partnership (e.g. get married). It doesn't seem like it to me otherwise almost all wives would look like Marilyn Monroe.

If women are the choosers then why aren't there lots of single men who will never have children even though they want to? Where are the losers in our societies? How common were they in the past?

What about hypothesizing that we all dream about the appearance of the ideal mate but that when it comes time to make a choice we put our emphasis on other characteristics (e.g. availability)? Maybe our preferences aren't really adaptations at all? Was that one of the hypotheses that was considered or do evolutionary psychologists jump immediately to adaptive story-telling?

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