The furore around a memo written by Google engineer James Damore, which argued that the relative paucity of female engineers could be explained in part by biology, brought the field of evolutionary psychology (EP) to wider public attention. EP seeks to identify the psychological traits that were adaptive in our evolution, forming part of ‘human nature’, and has been used to explain everything from gender differences to our propensity to eat unhealthy food. But critics argue EP is reductive and dehumanising. Should we reject an evolutionary perspective simply because it throws up some uncomfortable conclusions? Can evolution really explain modern psychology when culture and language appear to be changing at an unprecedented rate?
In this edition of Battle Cry, Max Sanderson talks to Professor Tim Ingold, who offers a critical analysis of evolutionary psychology. Professor Ingold will be speaking at the debate From gender to empathy: what can evolutionary psychology tell us? at the Battle of Ideas 2017 on 28 & 29 October at the Barbican in London.