Standard Social Science Model and the Evolutionary Theory
For centuries, there have been questions and debates on whether the standard social science model provides the best basis for understanding the behavior of human beings or if it must be supplemented by biological and evolutionary theory to make the human behavior more understandable. Essentially, having an understanding of the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) and the evolutionary theory is critical to addressing the debates and concerns raised. Proposed by several individuals including B.F Skinner, Franz Boas, Richard Lewontin, Stephen Jay Gould, John Money, and Margaret Mead, the Standard Social Science Model gives a description of various perspectives such as cultural determinism, social constructivism, relativism, and the blank slate that form the dominant theoretical paradigm in the field of social sciences (Pinker 69). According to SSSM, the mind is a cognitive device that is considered general-purpose and is shaped or influenced primarily by culture.
On the other hand, the biological and evolutionary theory gives the suggestion that the various traits such as psychological and behavioral traits exhibited by human beings are because of evolved adaptations. Put simply, biological and evolutionary theorists are of the opinions that most aspects of human behavior are outputs of the psychological adaptations that undergo evolution to give a solution to or address the incessant challenges that man faces in his ancestral environments. Some of the human behaviors that are as a result of the biological and evolutionary theory include the outright preference for healthier mates, the ability of human beings to infer the emotions of others, and the ability to discern kin from non-kin. The traits of intelligence, developing marriage patterns, exhibiting a perception of beauty, are all as a result of the biological and evolutionary theory. The theory has been controversial and misunderstood throughout history, and this has resulted to several individuals ignoring it when giving descriptions and explanations of human behaviors in the society (Zavada 20).
The controversy surrounding the theory has been extended to the weird religious behaviors of human beings seen in the world today. There is a need to address the controversies if a healthy relationship between the evolutionary theory and SSSM is to be established. Despite the tremendous advancements made regarding knowledge, the controversies surrounding the evolutionary theory has not quieted. However, it remains important that the evolutionary theory makes significant contributions to the Standard Social Science Model, and this is why most intellectuals have campaigned for the two supplementing each other to provide a better understanding of human behavior, particularly in the modern world.
Evolutionary theorists have three positions regarding human behavior. First, they opine that the minds of not only human beings but also other organisms are adapted genetically to their ancestral environments (Wilson 318). Owing to the fact that there are myriads of challenges that need to be addressed, evolutionary theorists note that the minds of organisms are a collection of specialized adaptations. There is a great complication when it comes to having an understanding of the human mind, and this is because genetic evolution has not been in line with the changes experienced in the environmental and social contexts that have been largely influenced by the introduction of agricultural practices (Zavada 15). Thus, the maladaptive behaviors of organisms such as human beings in the environment are underscored.
Similarly, evolutionary theorists believe that the transfer of a rain forest lizard into a desert would result in the exhibition of maladaptive behaviors. Essentially, in line with the first position of evolutionary theorists, to have an understanding of the human mind and its related products, there is need of an examination of how human beings adapt to their ancestral environments and not modern environments. Emanating from this position is the conclusion that differences in sex, as well as sexual relationships, are a reflection of the adaptive female and male behaviors that result from the evolution in ancestral environments.
The second position of evolutionary theorists regarding human behavior is that seemingly, human behavior is associated more with evolution than genetic evolution (Wilson 318). A close examination of this argument reveals that most of the human process such as cultural, psychological, and physiological can be described as evolutionary, and this is because the alternatives available to human beings in day-to-day life are influenced by the creation and selection based on given criteria. A perfect example of a physiological, evolutionary process among human beings is the immune system. The creation of antibodies in the human body occurs randomly, and the replication of antibodies that are successfully bound to antigens occurs faster than those that do not bind to antigens.
Emanating from this position is the conclusion that narratives that are part of the environment influence the behavior of human beings and that adaptation to human’s current environment is based on how they create and select alternative narratives. The third position of evolutionary theorists is that the behavior of human beings is inclined more to evolution than adaptation (Wilson 318). It is argued that there is a poor adaptation of evolving systems to environments, and this is owed to factors such as genetic drift, genetic constraints, as well as developmental and phylogenetic complications. A conclusion drawn from this position is that the playful characters and behaviors exhibited by human beings are not attributed to adaptation but the selection for juvenile characters in the environment. Arguably, the neotonous behaviors exhibited by human beings were as a result of the engagement with neotonous characters in the environment, and these have been fundamental to human beings standing upright and having big heads.
To understand human behavior, the positions of social constructivists (SSSM theorists) cannot be ignored. Social constructivists are of the opinion that both the society and human beings exhibit flexibility in what they become, and this is not in any way affected by human biology or evolution. In the modern world, it can be observed that there are diverse behaviors among humans and the society, and these underscore the flexibility in terms of behavior that exists in human beings and the overall society. In line with this position, the behaviors exhibited by individuals in the modern society are obtained through cultural transmission and learning, and this is why at times individuals have minimal or no instincts. This position by SSSM theorists also underscores the inequities that exist in the modern society among individuals. It should be noted that the inequities in the modern society are unavoidable, and are a reflection of the fact that powerful individuals and elements strive to dominate the less powerful ones. From this position, it can be concluded that the behavior of man to limit the social role of the woman in the society is obtained through learning and cultural transmission. Another position of social constructivists is that for human beings and societies, anything can take place, and this is because of the enormous flexibility exhibited (Wilson 318). In line with this position, it can be observed that there are myriads of combinations of sex roles.
From the positions of evolutionary theorists and SSSM theorists discussed above, it is notable that the Standard Social Science Model must be supplemented by biological and evolutionary theory for it to provide the best basis for understanding human behavior. Fundamentally, natural science and social sciences are interrelated in one way or another (Zavada 15). From these positions discussed, a conclusion that emanates is that each behavior must be adaptive to a respective situation and maladaptive to other situations. This means that every situation that influences human behavior must be in existence in the ancestral environment, a sentiment that is strongly shared by evolutionary theorists. For instance, birds that undergo the process of evolution in environments where mammalian predators are present are seen to exhibit modified behaviors. Moreover, there is a possibility of human beings being adapted psychologically to life in groups of people ranging from 10 to 100 but they will be unprepared genetically to life in large groups or populations that are in existence in modern life.
Moreover, the argument that SSSM must be supplemented by biological and evolutionary theory to provide the best basis for understanding human behavior is owed to the fact that learning and cultural change, which are seen to influence human behavior according to the SSSM model, are themselves evolutionary processes (Pinker 70). This underscores the relationship and interrelation between the two theories. It is argued that learning and cultural change are evolutionary because they influence alternative behaviors whose selection and creation are based on specific criteria. However, it should be noted that there is a significant difference between learning and culture and genetic evolution, which are aspects that influence human behavior. The difference is that learning and character influence human behavior faster than genetic evolution though they must supplement each other for a better understanding of human behavior. Human organisms adapt to their environments quickly when introduced to learning and culture whereas they will adapt slowly to their environments when introduced to genetic evolution. There is also a possibility that learning and culture could influence behaviors that are different from those influenced by genetic evolution.
Relying solely on SSSM to provide an understanding of human behavior has been hampered by the fact that the model misunderstands the nature of human and societal development. In other words, an aspect that is not present at birth must not be learned as argued by the model. Thus, it must be supplemented with the evolutionary theory to enable a better understanding of human behavior. The SSSM model has also been criticized due to the fact that it reflects a false dichotomy between nurture and nature. Undoubtedly, it is mandatory that experience and genes work together to ensure the guidance of behavior, and this is an aspect ignored by SSSM, hence the need to supplement it with the evolutionary theory for a better understanding of human behavior.
For several years, SSSM has been invoked heavily in a bid to give an explanation of human behaviors, and this means that the biological and evolutionary theory has been ignored and considered irrelevant. This is despite the fact that SSSM cannot give explanations to all behavior (Pinker 70). Essentially, learning and culture cannot account for every human behavior, and this triggers the involvement of the evolutionary theory in the same. In their explanation for human behaviors, social constructivists have failed to make people understand the notion of the performance of simple human behaviors such as remembering, hearing, and seeing. It should be noted that the mentioned acts are largely innate and are products of genetic evolution, and they are influenced by learning and culture. Therefore, the argument that the Standard Social Science Model must be supplemented by the biological and evolutionary theory to provide the best basis for understanding human behavior is supported.
Furthermore, the SSSM model in a bid to explain human behavior focuses on basic aspects and faculties such as language, hearing, memory, vision and others. Except language, the aspects of vision, memory, and hearing are prerequisites for human survival and reproduction (Pinker 71). However, social constructivists fail to give an explanation to the factors that influence other human behaviors such as mating, cooperation, migration, aggression, and foraging. The latter traits are innate and are largely influenced by genetic evolution, which is an explanation attributed to the biological and evolutionary theory. It should also be noted that the leverage on SSSM sees the divorce of natural and social sciences, and this is because culture is prioritized at the expense of psychology resulting in the divorce of the latter from biology. In as much as SSSM gives an explanation to the behavior of human beings, the behaviors take place in ancestral environments and are influenced by genetic evolution, and thus, there argument that the Standard Social Science Model must be supplemented by biological and evolutionary theory to provide the best basis for understanding human behavior is supported.
The connection of the Standard Social Science Model and the biological evolutionary theory is essential to the provision of the best basis for understanding human behavior. The implication is that the existing relationship between social science and natural science in the modern society cannot be ignored. However, the supporters of SSSM should not feel intimated by the supporters of the evolutionary theory and vice versa. Most of the human behaviors are influenced by both innateness, which is an aspect explained in the evolutionary theory, and language and culture, which are aspects explained in the SSSM model, also known as the social constructivist theory (Pinker 69). Evolutionary theorists and supporters should realize that there is more to human evolution than genetic adaptation to human ancestral environments in any case they are interested in giving explanations to human behaviors.
In addition, supporters of the biological and evolutionary theory need to understand that human being’s genetic endowment is owed to the rapid societal and individual adaptation to current environments, and aspect shared by the Standard Social Science Model. In the real sense, having a better understanding of human behavior in the world today would be difficult had the two theories not been supplemented. Interestingly, genetic evolution, which is a proposition of the evolutionary theory, is seen to make significant contributions to social constructivism, and thus, their interrelatedness is underscored
Pinker, Steven. “The Blank Slate: The modern denial of human nature.” New York, NY, Viking. Popper, K.(1974). Unended Quest. Fontana, London (2004).
Wilson, David Sloan. “Evolutionary social constructivism.” The Believing Primate (2007): 318.
Zavada, Maria R. Causal explanation of human behavior in the social sciences. Diss. University of Nebraska, 2013.