Thursday, December 28, 2006

Peyton Place in the Pleistocene

Excellent spoof of evolutionary psychology from Eye of a Cat - with the obligatory objections of fans of EP.

ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Y'know, I don't think primatology a million years from now is really going to support that simplistic a conclusion about relationships between the sexes. Chimp societies definitely don't work that way, and as for the bonobos -

ANCESTRAL MAN: Again, you're not exactly being constructive.

ANCESTRAL WOMAN: I'm fed up with getting all the shortest lines.

ANCESTRAL MAN: But you can't argue with my conclusions. Human behaviour is governed by programs created for the society we live in now: nuclear families, strongly-marked hierarchies, rich and poor individuals, men who provide and women who nurture. And this explains why, in a million years, men will get paid more and women will be gold-digging whores. It's genetic. And anyone who thinks that people's lives and expectations might be significantly shaped by their societies in the future is just kidding themselves. We should run our societies based on the way they already are, since that's obviously basic human nature, and entirely unchangeable.

ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Is that, um, perhaps getting a bit too close to the is/ought fallacy?

ANCESTRAL MAN: [Sighs] More like taking the is/ought fallacy home and introducing it to your parents.

[Long silence. They stare at the mammoth slowly cooking on the fire in front of them.]

ANCESTRAL WOMAN: You know, I'd like to live in one of those real hunter-gatherer societies. The ones where people live in small communities rather than nuclear families, so nobody has to worry about getting a specific partner to provide them with specific things. The ones where labour's divided up between the sexes, and there's no real hierarchy or concepts of wealth. I don't know why, I just...

ANCESTRAL MAN: Get the impression that they'd cope far better in the Pleistocene savannah than we do?


[Another long silence.]

ANCESTRAL MAN: It wouldn't work, you know.

ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Because the conclusions drawn by large portions of evolutionary psychology tend to be based on naive, poorly-researched ideas of prehistoric society that rarely specify anything more than 'during evolution', entirely ignore the role played by nurture, pay little attention to the idea of adaptability being one thing that's always going to be useful for human brains, reduce all human behaviour to the level of genetic reproduction even when the connection's clearly tenuous, and come up with some pretty iffy and often misogynistic conclusions that seem to be based far more in justifying contemporary society and the speaker's own place within it than explaining the limitations and capabilities of human behaviour?

ANCESTRAL MAN: Well... you could say that. But, see, you're a woman. You're more emotional. That's why you're letting your idealistic, head-in-the-clouds nonsense about hunter-gatherer societies cloud your perception of the Harsh Truth.


ANCESTRAL MAN: That that the default setting for humanity is the gender roles and domestic arrangements of the worst stereotypes of 1950s suburbia.

ANCESTRAL WOMAN: White picket fences and all.