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Mischaracterizations of adaptive evolution by psychologists and biologists

Posted on September 18, 2012 by James Kohl.

An Unevolved Take on Psychology From ‘The New Yorker’

Author: David P. Barash

Excerpt: “This is not the venue for me to review the various arguments presented in Homo Mysterious, or even to refute Anthony Gottlieb’s numerous mis-characterizations.”

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My comment: This is the venue for me to comment on the mis-characterizations of biologists and psychologists, as you can see if you review any of my recent blog posts.

The reports that came from the ENCODE groups earlier this month attest to a problem that might link the disciplines of biology and psychology if it could be eliminated. As it turns out, neither discipline seems to know what natural selection is selecting for.

Indeed, even after learning about the complexity of our genome, there is no information about how epigenetic effects on intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression in species from microbes to man led to the complexity of the human genome. Did anyone mention selection for the epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals (e.g, food) and species-specific pheromones that result from the metabolism of nutrient chemicals and are responsible for the control of reproduction? No!

We’re left by biologists and psychologists to think that random mutations somehow caused adaptive evolution via the required ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction, which can now (e.g, thanks to ENCODE) be evaluated in the context of the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of an incalculable number of interactive signals.

For contrast, it is now clear—from the honeybee model organism alone—how an environmental drive evolved from that of food ingestion in unicellular organisms such as yeasts to that of socialization in insects. It is also clear that, in mammals, food odors and pheromones cause changes in hormones that have developmental affects on social behavior, which includes sexual behavior in nutrient-dependent reproductively fit individuals across species of vertebrates.

Because it is also clear that nutrient chemical-dependent gene duplication is a mechanism of genomic adaptation to a changing environment (Kondrashov, 2012), and that pheromones epigenetically control nutrient dependent-speciation, when should we expect evolutionary theorists/psychologists and biologists to drop the idea that random mutations cause anything that’s adaptive and to focus instead on the biology of adaptive evolution via natural selection for nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled reproduction?

How much more natural can natural selection get? Every organism must eat, and every species must reproduce. Could it be any more clear that olfaction and odor receptors provide an evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans? (see for example Kohl, 2012).

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James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl




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