Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The Left and Right already make assumptions about human psychology

One reason why the Left should take seriously the potential contribution of evolutionary psychology to political process is because they (and the Right) already make huge assumptions about how the mind works to justify their political positions. And generally these assumptions are 100% wrong.

Take two recent articles from the Left for example.

The first is from George Monbiot: Acceptable hatred. Here he attempts to look at why there are what he considers to be racist attitudes towards Gypsies. One reason he suggests is an envy of those who can travel free: "The conflict between settled and traveling peoples goes back at least to the time of Cain and Abel."

This actually makes quite a few assumptions about how the mind works. By what process of memory is this ancient conflict passed down to the present day?

He goes on to claim that "Envy lies at the root of racism" but he offers no proof of this particular psychological explanation of racism.

Monbiot's argument already contains assumptions about human nature.

The second is from Simon Tisdall: Resist the official pol-speak of Bush's 'war on terror'. Tisdall is putting forward a theory about the interaction of language and politics. But there is no solid evidence for any of his assertions.

Monbiot and Tisdall are already talking about human psychology and its influence on politics but they show no interest in actually finding out what modern science is saying about how the mind works.

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