Saturday, May 13, 2006

Maimonides For The Hard of Hearing

Controversies in the evolutionary social sciences: a guide for the perplexed. Eric A. Smith, Monique Borgerhoff Mulder and Kim Hill.

It is 25 years since modern evolutionary ideas were first applied extensively to human behavior, jump-starting a field of study once known as ‘sociobiology’. Over the years, distinct styles of evolutionary analysis have emerged within the social sciences. Although there is considerable complementarity between approaches that emphasize the study of psychological mechanisms and those that focus on adaptive fit to environments, there are also substantial theoretical and methodological differences. These differences have generated a recurrent debate that is now exacerbated by growing popular media attention to evolutionary human behavioral studies. Here,we provide a guide to current controversies surrounding evolutionary studies of human social behavior, emphasizing theoretical and methodological issues.We conclude that a greater use of formal models, measures of current fitness costs and benefits, and attention to adaptive tradeoffs, will enhance the power and reliability of evolutionary analyses of human social behavior.

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