Common Misunderstandings about Evolutionary Theory

When a theory is published, and subjective interpretations are adopted, it is bound to affect the veracity of the original thought. While it seems inconsequential that one's thoughts could affect many human minds, it is confirmed that when roots are not determined by adequate comprehension, it taints the idea.

Misunderstandings about Evolutionary Theory

It is not new to wonder about the secrets of the human mind. Aristotle and Plato were two early Greeks who penned manifestos on the topic. More recently, psychologists have been vying for their attention with explanations of the human mind, including connectionism, Skinner's concept of reinforcement, and the Freudian idea of psychoanalysis.

We have only recently developed the conceptual tools necessary to combine our knowledge of the human mind into a single, overarching theoretical framework—evolutionary psychology. This field combines knowledge from all cognitive sciences, such as brain imaging, learning, memory, attention, emotion, passion, infatuation, envy, sex, etc.

Despite being beautiful in simplicity, the notion that life evolved by selection gives rise to several widely held misconceptions. It is possible that due to its simplicity, individuals mistakenly believe they can comprehend it thoroughly with only a quick introduction—say, after reading a few articles in the mainstream media.

  • Human behaviour is genetically determined

  • If it's evolutionary, we can't change it

  • Current mechanisms are optimally designed.

Human Behaviour is Genetically Determined

The belief that behavior is solely determined by genetics, without much or any impact from the environment, is known as genetic determinism. The idea that evolutionary theory presupposes genetic predictability is a significant barrier to using it in human psychology. Contrary to popular belief, it offers a comprehensive interactionist theoretical framework. Without two components, human behavior cannot exist (1) evolvable adaptations and (2) environmental stimulation that initiates the formation and activation of that acclimation.

Think of calluses as an example. Without a callus-producing mechanism that has developed over time and the situational variables of recurrent skin contact, calluses cannot form. Hence, to support evolutionary theory, we would never claim that calluses are inheritable and happen regardless of environmental factors. Instead, calluses are the product of a particular interaction between frequent interactions with the skin as an environmental input and an adjustment vulnerable to persistent friction and carry instructions to produce other new skin cells in response to repeated friction.

Certainly, adaptations give organisms tools to deal with environmental challenges, which is why they evolve. Hence, the idea that actions are determined by genes alone—or genetic determinism—is untrue. Evolutionary conceptualizations do not entail that.

Evolution Cannot be Altered

A second misperception is that evolution science indicates that human behavior is unchangeable. Recall the straightforward illustration of calluses. Physical settings that are generally friction-free can and are made by humans. These settings demonstrate that change has been planned—a change that stops the underpinning callus-producing circuits from being activated.

According to this, if changing social behavior is the intended outcome, knowing our developed social psychological adjustments and the social cues that trigger them gives us the power to do so. Consider the case below. There is proof that men have weaker sensitivities for detecting negative feelings than women. Male spectators are more likely than female onlookers to assume that a lady is intrigued by a male when she smiles at him.

This is probably a component of a psychological mechanism that has evolved in men and drives their desire for casual sex. Nonetheless, knowledge of this mechanism makes the prospect of change possible. In theory, males can utilize this information to lessen the frequency with which they operate on their false assumptions about a woman's sexual attraction and the frequency with which they approach her inappropriately for sex.

Instead of condemning us to an unalterable fate, information about our developed psychological responses and the social stimuli to which they were created to respond can have the exhilarating impact of modifying behavior in areas where change is desired. This does not imply that altering behavior is quick or straightforward. Nevertheless, as our understanding of our evolving minds grows, so does our capacity for change.

Current Mechanisms are Optimally Designed

Throughout the past century, several ground-breaking discoveries have been made thanks to the idea of adaptation. Some of the structures of our machinery, which occasionally seem to be put together with a chunk here and an extra bit there, might make an engineer wince. Several issues make the way our adaptations are now designed far from ideal. Think about two of them. Evolutionary time delays are one restriction on optimal design.

Remember that the term "evolution" denotes change over time. Every environmental change results in fresh selection pressures. Contemporary humans are compelled to have been created for the prior surroundings of which they are a result because evolutionary movement comes gradually and necessitates hundreds of generations of repeated selection pressure.

Alternatively, we live with a Stone Age mentality in the modern world. Today, solid cravings for fat, adapted in a former context of limited food resources, cause heart attacks. Our present developed capabilities might not be suited for the current context because of the time lag between the habitat that shaped them and the current environment.

The expense of adjustments is a second restriction on the best design. Think of the danger of getting killed while driving as an example. The risk could be reduced to almost nil if everyone was required to drive in armored vehicles with 10 feet of cushioning within and a ten-mile-per-hour posted speed. Nevertheless, this solution's expenses are absurdly excessive. Similarly, we could imagine a scenario in which natural selection created in humans a great fear of snakes that prevented them from going outside.

Such a fear would undoubtedly decrease the frequency of snake stings, yet it would be costly. Also, it would prohibit people from finding solutions to other adaptation issues, including gathering fruits, plants, and other life-sustaining food sources. In conclusion, humans' innate dread of snakes is not well suited for the species; after all, hundreds of people get bitten each year, some of whom passed away. Nevertheless, it functions well.

Every adaptation entails a price. As a result, we have evolved mechanisms that are relatively effective at solving adaptive issues, yet they are not constructed as well as they could be given no-cost restrictions. The expenditures of modifications and evolutionary temporal lags contribute to poor adaptation architecture.


Several widespread myths support some opposition to evolutionary science's applicability to humans. These misunderstandings are false; genetic determinism is not implied by evolutionary theory. It does not mean that we are helpless to affect change. This does not imply that our current adaptations are well thought out. It regards a lack of subject clarity and overambitious ideologies that are sustained sans foundations and thus bound to break.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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