"Evolutionary psychology" - the discipline that attempts to explain much of human behavior as a creation of natural selection that operated during our hunter-gatherer past - "is dead but doesn`t seem to know it yet," Stanford University evolutionist Paul R. Ehrlich told the annual meeting of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) in Arlington, Va., on March 26.
"Genetic evolution did not determine most of how we act or provide us all with a pre-programmed `human nature,"` he added. "For instance, there is no reason to believe that human beings are either innately violent or innately peaceful, instinctively disposed to wreck their environments or to be conservationists, or born genetically gay or genetically straight."
Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford, president of the Center for Conservation Biology and a past president of the AIBS, said the Human Genome Project had "put the final nail in the coffin of genetic determinism by showing that human beings have only some 26,000 to 38,000 genes - many of which are closely similar or identical to those of much simpler animals like fruit flies." This, he claimed, made the problem of "gene shortage" even more serious for the views of evolutionary psychologists than it was when it was thought that there probably were 100,000 genes or more.
"The complexities of human behavior must be coded into hundreds of trillions of often-changing connections among perhaps a trillion chemically varying nerve cells in the brain. Even if every one of our roughly 30,000 genes were dedicated to wiring our brains, each would need to control the hooking up of about a billion connections," Ehrlich explained.
"But genes must also contribute to the assembly of all our other complex organs. Even if we had a million genes that could be dedicated to our brains, they couldn`t begin to determine how those nerve cells interact," he stated. "Our genes have more than enough to do just making
Contact: Mark Shwartz